Water meters turn on the tap of questions

A local resident questions the City of Grand Forks impending water meter installation.

Water meters will save the city a considerable amount of money, but not so much for its citizens, according the latest insight on the looming water meter installation program.During city council question period on Nov. 25 before its regular meeting, Grand Forks resident Bob Smith asked council about the upcoming water meter program. “I’ve talked to a lot of people in town and they’re very upset about water meters coming in,” he told council. “Have you verified this as positive or negative, so far?”Mayor Brian Taylor said the feedback council has received on the upcoming program has been mostly positive, but there were some misconceptions of what the program would cost taxpayers.“In fact, the cost to the individual taxpayer, if you’re not watering a lot outside and various things, that we could give credit for, we don’t expect your rates would go up to the consumer,” he said. “But it would save the city a massive amount of money in the long run and potentially allow us to reduce some of our infrastructure costs. It really has been very positive.”The estimated cost of the universal water meter project in Grand Forks is $1.3 million, and will be financed through gas tax funding, which means there will be no impact to taxation. The project will occur in three phases starting in Spring 2014 and is scheduled for completion in Fall 2015.Taylor also said that the provincial government would not give the city any infrastructure grant money without water metering in place.CAO Doug Allin proceeded to speak about the water meter program and the preparation that the city has already undertaken.“Right now we have to replace our infrastructure with pipes that are larger than our capacity as we go through our asset management plan,” he said. “Having to replace a water main because we don’t have any water conservation going on, it will save us millions of dollars from the get-go.” As soon as the city reduces its water consumption by 25 per cent it can replace water mains with smaller water mains, then it can replace sewer mains with smaller sewer mains. “Rather than building larger for the sake of building larger, we’re actually living within our means as a community,” said Allin.The issue of water mains comes down to protecting the Grand Forks aquifer, he added, because it is a known limited resource of water. “As soon as we’ve tapped that dry and caused problems we’ll be in trouble as a community,” Allin said.In late November a plan for a comprehensive water meter program for the city was unanimously given early budget approval by city council.In 2014 the city will begin the process of universal water metering as a way to optimize water system services, reduce energy requirements and sizing infrastructure for reasonable water consumption rates.The city has received gas tax rebates to the tune of $1.3 million, so it has set aside that amount for the water metering project. Grand Forks industrial business are already hooked up to water meters.SideWater meters have been recommended as a water-saving measure in several of community plans that were developed through public consultation, including the recent Kettle River Watershed Study, the Asset Management Plan and the Sustainable Community Plan. The city has installed water meters over the past decade in all industrial, commercial, institutional and multi-family properties in Grand Forks. With the program expanding to include residential, each Grand Forks homeowner will have the ability to better control their usage allowing them to conserve and save more.The average Grand Forks resident uses about 720 litres of water per day—that’s more than 3,000 cups of water every day. That’s also one-third more than the average British Columbian. If the trend continues, the city will need to spend millions of dollars upgrading and expanding its water and wastewater facilities, according to a city press release on water meters.Water meters have been shown to reduce water consumption by nearly 25 per cent in other communities, said Taylor in the release, and will reduce the city’s costs.Using less water means the city will also use less power to run well pumps, reduce peak demands and help reduce the cost to maintain and operate the water system, added Taylor.Grand Forks will join a list of communities across B.C. that have installed water meters, including West Kelowna, Oliver, Penticton, Summerland, Peachland and Lumby. All residents supplied by the City of Kelowna water utility are on water meters, Vernon has universal metering, and Kamloops is currently undertaking a meter installation project.Going publicGrand Forks residents will have many opportunities to learn more about water meters and associated costs. To kick off the information program, the city will host an open house on Jan. 22, providing more information about water meters, the process for installing, comparative costs and how the community and customers can use them to their benefit. Watch for more information at www.grandforks.ca.

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