Saint John Water

Should you have any questions regarding the project, please email

Frequently Asked Questions - FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the City doing this project?

The goal of the Safe, Clean Drinking Water Program (SCDWP) is to ensure that every citizen of Saint John has access to safe, clean drinking water. Like many cities across North America, Saint John’s water system is aging and in need of updating. The City of Saint John looked at many ways of updating the system in order to achieve:

1. Good water quality that meets current and future water standards

2. Correction of deficiencies in the current water distribution system

3. Adequate water supply for fire protection and customer use

What is a PPP or P3 project?

PPP or P3 stands for Public-Private Partnerships. It is one of several procurement methods used in New Brunswick, Canada and around the world. It is a type of contractual agreement between a government agency and a private sector entity (like a contractor), which allows for greater private sector participation in the delivery of public infrastructure projects. Using a PPP or P3 model means:

  • One single entity (or contractor) is responsible for project design, build and financing
  • Project financing must include the cost of design, build, operation and maintenance over a long-term period (defined by the government agency)
  • Private sector finances the project design and construction costs
  • Private sector is paid based on its actual service performance, as defined by the government agency

Does our selection of a P3 model for this project mean our water will be privately owned?

No, our water will not be privately owned. The City’s watershed supplies are the property of the Government of New Brunswick and the City has the right to use the water for the purposes of the water utility, and using a PPP or P3 model would not change this.

Does our selection of a P3 model mean our new water treatment facility will be privately owned?

Under this PPP or P3 agreement, our private sector partner is required to design, bid, build, finance, operate and maintain the water treatment facility for a concession period of 30 years. The water quality being received by the water treatment plant as well as water quality exiting the plant will be outlined and agreed upon in the PPP or P3 contract. Our private sector partner will not gain ownership over any component of the water system. The City will always maintain full ownership over all water-related infrastructure.

Does our selection of a P3 model for this project mean our water will be privately owned?

The City’s water utility pipes will be addressed through the design, bid and build model. Under this arrangement, our private sector partner will not gain ownership over any component of the water system. The City will always maintain full ownership over all water-related infrastructure.

Who will set the water rates when the project has been completed?

Setting water rates will remain the responsibility of Saint John Common Council.

Now that the City is moving forward with this project, does that mean there will be no more pipe breaks or boil orders?

Water main or water pipe breaks occur for various reasons, but the most common reasons include, soil movement, freezing and thawing, aging pipes, water hammer and pressure surges, internal and external corrosion, traffic loads, and construction around water pipes.  During a typical year there are between 80 and 100 water main breaks and a very small number result in boil orders. The most common reason for a boil water order (affecting a large number of citizens) from a water main break is when a water transmission pipe fails and the water pressure drops significantly. And when water pressure is too low the potential for contaminates from outside the water pipe to enter the pipe exists.  The projects within the SCDWP, include the water treatment plant as well as the refurbishment and replacement of large water transmission pipes. These projects will not completely eliminate the exposure to pipe breaks and boil water orders, but it is certainly expected to dramatically decrease such occurrences.  

What funding was made available to the project from PPP Canada and the Province?

Under the PPP or P3 process, the City was eligible for funding from both the federal and provincial governments. Through PPP Canada, the City was eligible for up to 25 % of construction costs and other costs associated with the 13 high impact and critical projects under the SCDWP. The Government of New Brunswick agreed to match PPP Canada’s funding with the stipulation that the PPP or P3 process proceed.

Will our new treatment plant be more expensive than using the traditional, public funding approach?

An in-depth analysis was completed to decide if a P3 model was the best way to fund the project. While the analysis itself is an additional cost to the project, it demonstrates due diligence. The City of Saint John will benefit from the P3 model because project costs are known upfront and span the
full lifecycle of the treatment facility. Taxpayers will not be on the financial hook for cost overruns, delays or any performance issues. According to the analysis, this model will save money for taxpayers.

Will service levels decrease under the P3 model?

Under the terms of the project agreement, penalties are in place if service objectives fail to be met. Maintenance cannot be deferred. Saint John Water will still be maintaining the pipes, conducting water quality tests and providing a high level of customer service. Our private sector partner will only be responsible for the treatment of drinking water and management of the facility. The project agreement is performance-based to ensure that the facility is designed, constructed, operated and maintained for high-quality and reliable service for the City of Saint John.

Does the P3 permit the City the flexibility to make future changes in service delivery or other public policy decisions, to end the P3 in the procurement stage and to terminate the contract if it is not meeting the public interest?

The City has been very specific in the project agreement and will allow for minor changes in service delivery. The City of Saint John has the ability to terminate the contract should performance become an issue.

What are the prospects of small and medium-sized local businesses contributing to the project?

Many local businesses and contractors attended meetings outlining the procurement process in the early stages of the project. They joined a networking list that was shared with the bidders (which included the preferred proponent.)

Suppliers looking for additional information on how to get involved may email

The P3 model is relatively new, where can I find information on other Canadian projects?

For additional information, please visit P3 Canada or The Canadian Council for Public Private Partnerships

Have there been other local P3 projects completed?
Examples of nearby projects include Confederation Bridge (1997), the City of Moncton’s drinking water treatment plant (1998), and the recent Route 1 Gateway highway project.