Pursuant to the Public Utilities Act, the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board ("NSUARB" or "Board") exercises general supervision over all water utilities operating as public utilities within the Province. This authority includes setting of rates, tolls and charges, regulations, fire protection charges, rates and regulations for the provision of service and approval of capital expenditures in excess of $250,000. In addition, the Board is also authorized to deal with any other matters, including complaints, the Board feels are necessary to properly exercise its mandate. The Public Utilities Act allows the recovery of all reasonable and prudent operating expenses, annual depreciation expense, and a return on rate base which is deemed to be just and reasonable.
There are approximately 60 regulated water utilities, all of which are either owned and operated by a municipality or a separate Commission. Each Utility has schedules of rates and regulations approved by the Board. The Board must approve all amendments to the schedules which generally requires a public hearing.
When approving capital expenditures, the Board assesses, among other things, the need for the proposed project, the reasonableness of the expenditure, and the financial impact on the Utility and its customers.
When a customer complaint is investigated, the focus is on whether the regulations, as approved by the Board, have been followed on a fair and equitable basis.
While the Board has an indirect role in the regulation of the safety and adequacy of service provided by a public utility, the Nova Scotia Department of Environment is the entity which has the responsibility to ensure the safety and quality of water consumed by the public. The Board and Nova Scotia Environment have published a guide on Municipal Water Utility Oversight. The guide was developed to help municipalities better understand their roles and responsibilities under the Public Utilities Act (administered by the Board) and the Environment Act (administered by Nova Scotia Environment).
The focus of the Board’s regulatory power over water utilities is to ensure sound management and the provision of reasonably safe and adequate service at just and reasonable rates.
The Board Regulatory Rules outline the requirements relating to practice and procedure before the NSUARB for matters relating to water utilities. The Public Utilities Act and the Board Regulatory Rules can be accessed through the Statutes, Rules & Regulations page.
Board policy requires a decision to be issued within 90 days from the date of last filing, subject to unusual circumstances. Under the Utility and Review Board Act, decisions may be appealed to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal on any question of jurisdiction or law, within 30 days from the date of the Board Order.
Past decisions of the Board can be accessed through the Decision Archive section.
Descriptions as to how the Board deals with rate applications, approval of capital expenditures and complaints are set out in the User Guide for Customers/Public and the User Guide for Water Utilities.