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Mission introduces pilot program to measure water use in older homes

Water meter advocate Coun. Jeff Jewell isn’t giving up on establishing a program in Mission to measure how much water is being used in each home.

At a special council meeting Dec. 18, he convinced his colleagues to take another step in that direction by implementing a sample metering program to measure the water consumption of older homes.

Before the pilot project can begin, district staff must investigate the costs and from which budget the funds will be drawn.

While Jewell would have preferred to put at least a voluntary metering program in place, he said the move is progress.

The main issue isn’t about meters or the cost of implementing them, said Jewell. “It’s about being equitable.”

Residents already measure and pay for hydro and gas usage, and they should do the same with water, he noted, adding meters will bring fairness to taxpayers, the City of Abbotsford, with whom Mission has a partnership when it comes to water and sewer services, and the next generation.

Jewell explained the current generation of residents hasn’t had to make a big investment in water because the infrastructure that is currently in place was paid for by the previous generation.

The councillor believes two out of three Mission residents are being overcharged for their water use because Abbotsford-Mission Water Sewer Commission data shows the average Mission home consumes nearly twice as much as a home in Abbotsford.

Water meters are required for all new construction in Mission, and council debated establishing a voluntary metering program, but first wanted more information about older homes.

The newer residences are likely equipped with energy-saving appliances and low-flow systems, reasoned Coun. Larry Nundal, who suggested houses in the West Heights area, which already have meters, be used in the study.

“It’s mid-point housing,” said Nundal.

City of Surrey implemented a voluntary metering program more than 10 years ago while requiring all new construction to install water meters.

“The program is well received,” said Jeff Arason, Surrey’s manager of utilities. “Year after year, more people are signing up.”

Residents in older homes who don’t have a meter pay a flat rate, which is determined each year by the amount of water not measured.

On average, residents in Surrey homes with meters use about 400 cubic metres of water annually, while unmetered customers use about 750 cubic metres.

Volunteers are generally the low-water users, and over time, it gets more expensive for the unmetered ones, noted Arason.

Surrey provides the meters, but the cost is incorporated into the annual utility bill payment. Surrey promotes the program through advertising and social media, but doesn’t have plans to make meters mandatory.

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