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Public meeting slated to discuss water and sewer rates

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
September 29th, 2016

A public open house next month will be one of the final steps in seeing user-pay water and sewer services in Castlegar, as water-meter installation in the city nears completion.

Director of Transportation and Civic Works Chris Barlow says the city is nearing the end of a process that involved roughly 2,700 homes and has been almost a decade in the making.

“We started residential metering with a voluntary program in 2006,” Barlow explained. “Then, in 2012, council decided to go ahead with universal metering.”

Now, there are only roughly 80 meters left to install and another 30 addresses still requiring an assessment and, despite the controversy at the program’s outset, only four homeowners have refused meter installation.

“The city has presented a variety of initiatives over the past several years to get people thinking about water conservation,” Barlow said, pointing to efforts like the toilet rebate program, the water barrel program, participation in local fairs, our water ambassador and more.

He said the benefit of the water meters is multi-fold, far beyond just incentivizing water conservation.

“We’ve already seen a payback – there are grants we’ve received already, specifically because we have meters,” he said, citing, for example, a grant the city applied for to improve our water treatment facility. The province declined to offer said funding until the city did something about its water consumption, the city started its water metering program and reapplied for funding, and was given $750,000. “We’re aligning ourselves with provincial priorities.”

Another huge advantage to the meters, Barlow said, is in the city’s ability to gather operational information – determining usage patterns, identifying leaks, and so on.

“There’s a saying, and it’s so true: ‘You can’t manage what you can’t measure’,” he said, adding the city’s water ambassador has already been able to make excellent use of metering data for targeted public education.

Unusually high water consumption data can also pinpoint issues such as pipes that have frozen and broken and have been leaking into the ground, “for who knows how long,” Barlow explained.

The city is currently gathering data while they complete the meter installations, and the next step will be to establish rate structures for a user-pay system – hence the public open house.

“I imagine there will be a flat rate to cover operational costs, then a portion based on consumption (to incentivize conservation),” Barlow said. “That’s what the community forum is for, to discuss water and sewer rate structures moving forward.”

The meeting will be held at the Community Forum (across from City Hall) on Oct. 13 between 5 and 7 p.m. For more information, contact Public Works at 250-365-5979.

Categories: GeneralPolitics

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