A number of Missionites are claiming their water bills have increased exponentially over last year without having used more H20.
One homeowner, Brittany Vanderest, posted to social media on Oct. 27 after seeing her bill had tripled. She said that they moved onto the property three years ago, and a water meter was already installed.
“I know our usage hasn’t gone up that much, so I don’t know why our [bill] is that much higher,” Vanderest said. “I didn’t even want to be on a water meter.”
Dozens of others commented on the post, reporting similar price spikes, many by hundreds of dollars.
The district said that the annual rate (per cubic meter of water consumed) has increased by two cents since last year, but this should only account for a small increase.
“Much higher bills are likely due to more water consumption or a leak in the property’s plumbing system,” said Taryn Hubbard, manager of communications for the district. “Increases in consumption can happen quickly, especially if more people are staying home due to the COVID-19 crisis.”
On a monthly basis, public works staff watch for equipment issues, high consumption and potential plumbing leaks on existing water meters so they can alert the property owner, according to the district.
“[Staff] notify very high users as soon as possible,” Hubbard said. “Malfunctioning meters are identified and replaced. The district also replaces old meters.”
But malfunctioning or aged meters typically show lower consumption rates rather than higher, according to the district. Hubbard said the price increases could be reflecting the actual amount of consumed water after a recent meter replacement.
Any leaks are the property owners’ responsibility to fix, but any owner with a water meter is eligible for a one-time rate adjustment if a leak is identified and repaired.
Residents who have seen their water bills increase can call the municipal finance department (604-820-3718), or if a leak is identified, the public works department (604-820-3761).
There are a total of 1,623 customers on meters in the district, which accounts for just under 18 per cent of residential services.
The District of Mission has been trying to get more properties moved on to water meters in recent years, but most older homes still pay a flat rate of $508 annually on top of their property tax.
In 2017, the district made an application to the Gas Tax Strategic Priorities Fund, asking for $6 million in provincial funding for a $15.5 million infrastructure project that would see 9,000 meters installed around Mission, but they failed to be granted those funds.
All Mission developments since 2009 require meters to be installed.
Both the district and the City of Abbotsford, who share a water system, have managed to cut consumption rates dramatically since learning they were in danger of draining their supply nearly a decade ago.
But Mission homeowners still use significantly more water than their Abbotsford counterparts in residential areas, who are more likely to be on water meters.
This heavy usage led to the district’s share of a proposed $85 million collector well project to go up by $6 million in June 2019, after a joint municipal committee on the project.
– With files from Tyler Olsen