The District of Lake Country is kicking off plans to cut back water consumption by 25 per cent with plans to install universal water meters in the district in farms and in homes over the next two years.
Lake Country is a couple of years into a 20-year water master plan to improve its water infrastructure to the tune of $79 million and the next phase of the plan will move into action this year with universal water metering, measuring the water that a person uses and charging them for over-use.
The district will first be installing water meters with its agriculture users, and then, next year, moving on to residential homes.
“We still need to determine the rate structure, but when we talk about universal water metering as whole, one of the reasons to move towards it is equity of rates,” said Greg Bucholz, operations manager.
“You pay for what you use, so somebody that is being water-wise, can save some money and someone who is using water like there is no tomorrow will pay more if they are being really abusive.”
Much remains up in the air when it comes to how water metering will change the way farmers and residential customers utilize water in Lake Country, but the district is moving forward with plans to get in line with communities around the Okanagan, many of which have water metering programs already in place.
District council has committed $1 million towards the program this year as staff will install meters at up to 500 agricultural connections before spending $3 million to install them in residential homes in 2015.
To ease customers into the program a mock billing program will also take place before a new rate structure is in place, scheduled for 2017.
“We’re not looking at wholesale changes in rates,” said Bucholz.
“We’re not looking to the meters to secure additional funding. What we are trying to achieve is a 25 per cent reduction in water usage. We are looking to conserve water, especially at peak times. That’s done to secure a water supply in times of a drought and to make sure water is available to downstream users.”
Coun. Jamie McEwan says the district is moving forward slowly with plans to mock bill for a year prior to any rate changes. But he added it’s important that they make these steps to help water conservation.
“I think one of the best benefits of universal metering is it’s going to being residential users into a user pay system and hopefully reduce water consumption, especially at peak times,” he said.
“We are a major watershed for the entire region and we have to be mindful of how we use water. This will allow people to see how much water they are using and if they are using too much, adjust their behavior.”
Universal water metering is part of the district’s 20-year-plan, which began with the construction of the Kalamalaka Lake interconnect project.
Bucholz says one of the key reasons to get water meters installed is the district’s ability to go after funding from the province, to help offset project costs in the future.
“The province has really promoted water conservation, so in terms of getting grants, if you do not have water conservation principles in play, the grant money will not come,” he said.