Many Halifax homeowners may find an unexpected bill from the water commission in the mail, even though they get their water from a well and use their own septic system.

Halifax Water wants to charge them an annual storm water fee for having a ditch in front of their homes.

“Well that’s ridiculous, totally ridiculous,” says Hammonds Plains resident Donna Roberts. “What am I paying for?”

“The ditch system is part of the conveyance system for the storm water system, so we have to maintain the system and there’s a cost to that,” says Halifax Water spokesman James Campbell.

Halifax Water has applied to the Utility and Review Board for a water rate hike that investment property owners say ranges from 20 per cent for residential customers up to 55 per cent for apartment building owners.

If approved, commercial property owners will also have a new storm water charge tacked onto their bills.

“If a large property owner or mall has essentially paved over paradise and put up a parking lot, all that storm water is hitting the ground and going into our system. There’s a cost to that,” says Campbell.

Years ago, many roads in suburban and rural Halifax were handed over to the city by the province.

“We have to take care of them and somebody has to pay,” says Deputy Mayor Reg Rankin. “We’re out of that business. We gave it to the water commission.”

Halifax Water took over the ditches in 2007, but rainwater in the ditches doesn’t run into a storm drain and into the city’s sewer lines.

“The ditch would generally drain into a local river or brook or lake,” says Campbell.

“I don’t want to pay for it,” says Roberts. “If I’m not getting the service, I don’t want to pay for it.”

Campbell couldn’t say how many homeowners and businesses would be affected, and didn’t know what the revenue would be, but said each homeowner would be charged a flat fee.

“The residential rate will be a flat rate around $54 in the first year and $58 in the second.”

Campbell says commercial property owners will pay by the square foot.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Rick Grant