By Cindy Filipenko
Water metering could reduce average annual household water consumption in Pemberton from 106,000 to 74,000 gallons.
This figure is on par with other communities that have implemented water metering, with average reductions in usage being between 25 and 35 per cent. With that reduction in usage would come a cost reduction. For a community hit by an average 65 per cent increase in water rates in 2005 this comes as good news.
Ron Bauman, from Corix Utilities, the Canadian-owned utilities arm of Terasen, gave a compelling presentation to mayor and council on possible scenarios for the community’s water management.
Bauman, who has worked with the Village of Pemberton (VOP) for the past two years, believes that water conservation needs to be in place as soon as possible. He recommends that the first phase, a $12,000 awareness program be undertaken next spring. For that fee, the VOP would receive newsletters to be sent out with utility bills, conservation brochures, seasonal conservation tips, website support, a review of existing bylaws to make sure they are in alignment with the program and hosted community open houses.
“Introducing water conservation as a PR program will save a community up to 10 per cent in usage,” said Bauman. “To achieve 20 to 25 per cent metering is needed.”
Across Canada, industrial and commercial use included, users paying an annual flat rate for their water use up to 70 per cent more than metered users, according to Environment Canada. A 1999 study revealed that British Columbians paying a flat rate for their water, on average, used 25 per cent more than their metered counterparts.
The second phase of the program would be more aggressive, with an assessment of Pemberton’s metering needs combined with conservation equipment provided by Corix to the VOP to sell or give away to promote the concept of water conversations. This equipment would include low flow showerheads, kitchen and bathroom aerators, toilet dye tablets and toilet flappers. The thrust of this phase would be education, as opposed to awareness. These educational efforts would extend beyond the adult population and into the school system.
“Kids are the best champions of the message,” said Bauman.
The cost of this more substantial second phase would be $41,000.
This would be followed up by the installation of the meters for all properties within the village boundaries.
Bauman pointed out that there were two options Corix was recommending to the community. The first option would be executing the multi-phase program with the VOP maintaining all rights and responsibilities for maintaining the system once it was installed. The other option would be to enter a partnership with Corix over a period of 20 years.
“We would also like to work with you as an exclusive franchise… We would take care of installation, billing and own and operate the metering fleet,” explained Bauman.
In both scenarios, the village would maintain control of the water rates and distribution.
Corix would finance the project over a 20-year period with five-year windows to revisit the contract. At these junctures, the VOP would be able to buy back the depreciated assets and take over the operation of the system.
“We’re very interesting in water metering,” said Councillor Jenny Helmer. “I’ve heard of something in Surrey that allowed people to buy meters and receive a lower rate.”
Bauman confirmed that this decision by Surrey council allowed people to opt into the program or remain on the flat-rate system, although all new construction in that city required water meters.
“We started the program six years ago with 6,000 water meters, today there are 35,000,” said Bauman.
In closing, Bauman asked that council decide on whether they were prepared to enter negotiations with Corix. A decision is pending.