Water rates could climb

Greater Vernon residents could be paying more every time they turn on the tap.

Some officials have speculated there could be a minimum rate increase of 12.3 per cent for domestic water users but a final figure hasn’t been determined yet.

“This week, we can look at where it’s coming from and how it will be distributed,” said director Mike Macnabb of the split between domestic, agricultural, commercial and industrial customers.

As part of the 2014 utility budget, current and expected future capital projects require about $4 million in new funding. It’s proposed that $2.6 million will come from rate increases and $1.4 million will be drawn from reserves.

Greater Vernon Water’s total budget for 2014 (for operations, capital and debt) is proposed to be $22.5 million, down from $24.6 million in 2013.

However, a challenge for budgeting is reduced consumption as residents embrace conservation.

“There are a lot less people in the top tiers and the people in those tiers are using less,” said David Sewell, Regional District of North Okanagan finance general manager.

The projected revenue shortfall over the last three years was $3.2 million  relative to budget expectations.

“From a conservation standpoint, it’s terrific news, but from a financial perspective, it’s terrible news,” said Sewell.

“People are choosing xeriscaping or they’re not irrigating. We have seen significant shifts in consumption.”

Of the projects planned for 2014, $400,000 is for the master water plan, including $700,000 to design the Lavington separation system, $100,000 for pre-design for a Goose Lake supply from Okanagan Lake and $30,000 for a peer review of Duteau Creek filtration.

Other proposed capital projects are $35,000 to replace sludge mixers, $980,000 for pipe replacement on Pleasant Valley Road (from 41st to 46th avenues) and $2.1 million for improvements to the Headgates dam.

“We want to fix our spillways and improve our dams. That enhancement is not funded in our current rate structure,” said Sewell.

Macnabb believes it’s time to put some pressure on senior government as a way of easing pressure on ratepayers.

“We have to put an argument forward for infrastructure (grants),” he said.

Greater Vernon Advisory Committee members will meet Thursday to discuss rates.


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