Taps shut off on water meters

The District of Mission will not spend $12 million to refit residential homes with water meters, as council opted Tuesday night to follow staff recommendations that warn it isn’t cost-efficient.

Although the report says water meters provide a number of “non-financial benefits,” preliminary estimates show residential water rates would have to rise between 15 and 21 per cent.

“We are no longer putting the cart before the horse,” said a relieved Coun. Jenny Stevens Tuesday night. “We don’t have accurate, independent figures on how much meters would actually save us.”

Former councillor John Pearson, who is also past-chair of the Abbotsford-Mission Water and Sewer Commission (AMWSC), spoke Tuesday night in favour of the staff recommendations, given the uncertainty over how much water and money would actually be saved.

“It would be foolish at this point, in the extreme, to spend that amount of money on water meters,” he said, adding the report indicates the district doesn’t have the funds anyway.

Of the estimated $12 million cost, $6.7 million would be taken from gas tax reserves,

leaving $5.3 million to be covered by landowners, or $616 per household. Amortized over 15 years (the meters’ lifespan), the estimated annual cost would range between $566,000 and $800,000, depending on how much water would be conserved from meters.

Even with vigilant water monitoring, however, the report indicated the fixed costs of the infrastructure would still require rate increases.

The non-financial benefits identified by staff include water conservation, equity through a pay-per-use system, and more effective resource management.

Since Mission doesn’t have water meters, the estimated use of 440 litres per capita per day (l/c/d) is based on a provincial average used for non-metered municipalities.

But Pearson pointed out that nobody really knows what Mission’s true water usage might be, so it’s impossible to quantify how much metering would save.

The 2010 AMWSC master plan estimated 17 per cent of Mission’s water is lost to watermain leakage, reservoir cracks and overflows.

Coun. Heather Stewart cautioned this doesn’t mean Mission has abandoned water meters, but said more information is needed.

Appearing as a delegation before council Tuesday evening, representatives from Water Watch Mission-Abbotsford urged the district to seek a “Made in Mission” solution to the future water needs of residents, while cautioning against partnerships with private companies.

Mission declined in April to join Abbotsford in a P3 (public-private partnership) water project on Stave Lake that would expand the water capacity of the AMWSC.

Council voted Tuesday to support staff recommendations that the district indefinitely delay water metering until a future water supply source for Mission is found, and that the district “aggressively pursue” water conservation in the absence of a metering program.