Why we need water meters
Here are my thoughts on water meters and why they are a good idea:
1. They make it possible to charge customers in proportion to the amount of water they use. We can, through community consensus, add rate schedules according to the values of our community to make it fair. Eg. We give a certain discount per square foot of vegetable garden or we charge more to businesses like golf courses to encourage them to collect and store their own water.
2. They allow the system to demonstrate accountability. Without individual meters, there is no way to hold residents accountable to fix their leaks at their cost, as it should be.
3. They are fair for all customers because they record specific usage. Right now the owner of a grow-op pays the same as grandma on fixed income.
4. They encourage customers to conserve water (especially as compared to flat rates).
5. They allow a utility system to monitor the volume of finished water it puts out. This will help staff determine the overall loss out of the system and maintain their water mains.
6. They aid in the detection of leaks and waterline breaks in the distribution system.
7. In the medium and long term, drinking water is quickly becoming the most scarce resource on this planet. Glaciers are receding and some of the world’s most important rivers e.g. Yangtze, Bramaputra, and the Ganges will become seasonal flows. Both the Fraser and Columbia Rivers are glacier fed. It is inevitable that water will be metered as its value increases. We can pay for these meters now, or a lot more later.
8. What gets measured, gets managed. Electricity is metered, Natural Gas is metered, water is a natural resource that takes money and time to gather, treat, and distribute. It should be metered as well.
9. There is the argument that we have plenty of water here, we just need to get it into pipes. Whether through wells or reservoirs there is a larger impact. There is a risk to using aquifers and that should be considered. It is best to reduce demand on the system before further taxing a groundwater system whose source is not entirely mapped and largely unprotected.
10. Using the business case, water meters are estimated to reduce our overall water demand by anywhere from 20-50%. Here is a link to a presentation with more data. This is the difference of at least one, probably two wells the size of Church Road. Church Road's approved budget is $9 million. We may be able to develop other wells for cheaper, but water meters are a competitive choice in making supply meet demand. I’d rather pay $7 million plus interest for water meters than $53 million plus interest for a reservoir.
11. Chances are decent, in my opinion, that we will receive some grant funding for these meters.
12. It encourages the private and business investment in water collection, recycling and storing systems, which benefits the overall eco-system by decreasing erosion due to excessive run-off from built-up areas, and the Chapman watershed by reducing demand on the system. Note the $500-$1000 grant on rainwater collection system the SCRD offers.
13. Treatment of water takes resources and chemicals, like chlorine, and creates sludge from treatment that needs to be disposed of. Reducing the amount of water needed to be treated lessens the impact on the environment.
14. In the end, both the provincial and federal governments have stated that the implementation of water meters is a prerequisite for further grant funding for infrastructure, so this investment will have a large return, and basically makes it mandatory.
15. We have recently learned that 9% of our private water customers in the Chapman System use 38% of the water... and yet we can't go after those people because we don't have meters installed everywhere, meaning that if there are high users that are not metered they can get away with it, and that wouldn't be fair. To give you an idea, if we got those 9% to reduce their water use to the average household, our water shortage would be over. It also makes sense to have them pay proportionately more for all the infrastructure improvements we're currently undertaking, as they are the reason we have to do them.
SCRD staff has prepared their own FAQ. Here is the link.