Suffering the slings and arrows

Whether to install water meters or not to install water meters, that is the question

Whether to install water meters or not to install water meters, that is the question. In the time of limited city funds, what is the best approach to conserve water and at the same time keep the water flowing throughout the city infrastructure? The majority of the year there is not a shortage of water for the city and there is ongoing work to upgrade the water and sewer system.

The city has completed a water and sewer master plan which is used as a guideline for the work required to improve our water and sewer system.

As alternate sources, the city uses lake water to irrigate Lakeside Park and Lakeside playing fields, drilled a well at the city cemetery for irrigation and uses Anderson Creek for the irrigation of Davies Street Park. Also, the city has a gravity fed water system, unlike Castlegar, with water metering, where there is a substantial cost to have the water pumped out of the river.

Is it cost effective to install electronic water meters in the residential areas of the city along with increasing water metering of local businesses?

Even with water metering the city will have to establish a base water rate in order to finance the upgrades to the city water and sewer systems. The installation of water meters is a difficult and more costly process than installation of electric meters or gas meters.

Obviously water meters have to be protected from freezing, so there are two methods for installation which are both very expensive. One is to dig down to the water pipe on the property line and install a water meter at least two feet down or second, to have the water meter installed inside the property owner’s house.

There could be potential problems with underground installation with access and upgrading of old water lines. There could be problems with installation in houses, such as access to and location of pipelines in finished basements or houses with no basements.

The city could spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on installation of electronic water meters and monitoring, which is estimated to be up to $3 to 4 million dollars. Or should the city spend the money upgrading the current water and sewer systems? Upgrades are going to be required on the five mile pipe line, which is over 100 years old and is the main source of water for the city.

With the proposed establishment of a base water rate plus usage, would the cost of water metering be fair or would it have an adverse effect on low income families?

There is still a lot of work to be done to complete upgrades to the city water and sewer infrastructure.

While the city may install some water meters, to get an analysis of the average water use in residential houses and commercial business, it has not been decided to install water meters or not to install water meters throughout the city.

Robin Cherbo  shares column space in the Star with his colleagues on Nelson’s city council.