In a nutshell, what are “communal services”, and what – if any – are the benefits?

    Communal services are systems that provide water and wastewater treatment to clusters of residences or businesses. They can be a less expensive alternative to centralized municipal services and a more environmentally-friendly alternative to private on-site services. A key benefit of communal services is that they represent alternative water and wastewater servicing approaches that can provide the County and Townships with the innovative technology and flexibility to accommodate growth and achieve planning, environmental, and economic development objectives.

    Why is Frontenac looking at the advancement of development on communal services?

    Continued development in the County on private services has the potential to result in inefficient use of land, and threaten the long-term viability of the County’s villages and hamlets, especially their mainstreets. Without innovative approaches to servicing, the County and developers are limited in their ability to respond to community needs in the provision of diverse housing types along the housing spectrum to enable residents to age in place. Development on smaller lot sizes could assist in addressing increasing concerns related to rural housing affordability and accessibility. Private servicing also limits the revitalization of village and hamlet mainstreets and commercial cores to be vibrant, walkable, and compact, and able to accommodate new commercial and mixed-use development. Communal servicing can allow for new development on smaller lot sizes that area a better ‘fit’ into the existing fabric of a village or hamlet.

    What specifically are the benefits for residents if communal servicing takes place?

    Residents on communal servicing can be confident in their water and wastewater treatment systems. Residents will also have a wider choice of housing options, including apartment units. And citizens will also have confidence in good stewardship in the use of water resources in their area.

    Are communal services the same thing as full municipal services?

    Communal services is not the same as full municipal services. They can be small 5-10 households or on the scale of new subdivision. While possible, it is not the intent to service entire communities such as Sharbot Lake.

    What happens when systems fail?

    Provincial legislation, in particular, the Safe Drinking Water Act ( requires rate structures for water systems to calculate and plan for all operating and replacement costs. Rate studies must be completed every six years. Waiting for the end of life span of an installation is not an option.

    What is the Province of Ontario’s Policy with respect to communal services?

    The Province of Ontario (Provincial Policy Statement S. ( requires either full municipal services, or communal services as the preferred servicing option. The Policy Statements are mandatory for all municipalities in Ontario.

    Are there any environmental advantages to communal services?

    Communal servicing is the environmentally preferred option over individual services. One communal well, and one communal septic that are licenced and monitored by the Province, versus several individual wells and septic systems that are not monitored, will provide better environmental protection.

    Is there enough development pressure in Central and North Frontenac to justify communal services?

    Development activity in Central and North Frontenac has increased by 50% in each of the past three years. We know more development is coming. It is incumbent upon us to ensure that it is accomplished in a sustainable manner.

    Can communal servicing be used in the Canadian Shield parts of Frontenac?

    Communal servicing is particularly well suited to the shield topography of our region. They consume small foot prints, are modular, expandable and in many cases can be constructed using small bore technology that is not possible with full municipal services. 

    Communal services also permits a denser form of development that will lessen the costs of infrastructure such as roads, while supporting schools and shops in our community. 

    Why create a Municipal Service Corporation?

    The purpose of the municipal services corporation is to spread the risk across the four Frontenac Townships. The analogy being that, like car insurance, there is less risk with more participants. No one individual could afford insurance on their own, but together we are all covered. A MSC is the most effective tool provided by the Province to municipalities to share risk across municipal boundaries, while limiting risk to any one individual municipality.

    The Municipal Act, S. 203 ( link)), establishes the ability of a municipality to establish a Municipal Services Corporation. Provincial regulation 559/06, S. 6 ( link)) sets out the requirement for a BCS and the mandatory components of the study. 

    The Business Case Study reads that there are two background reports. Where can I find the reports?

    You can find the Business Case Study and WSP reports one and two in the Documents panel in the widgets column on the project page.

    How much control will the Townships have over communal service developments?

    All new communal service development will require land use planning approvals by the Townships and input from the public. It will be up to the local community to determine whether a proposal can be considered to be ‘good planning’ and the local Official Plans will be used to guide that decision-making.

    Why not just build the traditional water and sewer systems in some of the villages, instead of communal systems that are not as common?

    There are currently no municipal services for water and sewer anywhere in Frontenac, with the exception of the water system in the village of Sydenham that was required to be installed by the Ontario Ministry of Environment. The cost of installing full municipal services is very expensive for all four of the Townships in Frontenac County, which do not have the tax base or the growth rate of an urban area. These municipal systems are designed for over-capacity to accommodate growing populations, where communal systems are modular and can be expanded as needed and are likely better suited for the slower rate of growth in rural communities.

    Can you recommend an organization or institution that can provide more information on communal systems?

    Yes. The Ontario Onsite Wastewater Association (OOWA) is a provincial not-for-profit association dedicated to promoting the benefit and value of decentralized (communal) wastewater management. The Association includes a network of industry professionals, including system installers, designers, researchers, and policymakers. (Note: The WSP consulting team included members of OOWA).