The Municipality of North Cowichan is hoping to turn off the tap on residential water leakages by increasing the frequency of meter readings conducted each year.
Meters in the Chemainus, Crofton and South End private water systems will now be read three times a year after council approved the staff recommended increase at the July 6 council meeting.
Over the last two years, approximately 18.6 million gallons of water have been wasted through residential water leaks. Staff noted that amount is equivalent to 28 days of average water use in Chemainus and 99 days in Crofton.
John MacKay, director of engineering and operations, said not only will the additional reading prevent leaks by early detection, but assist with vital water conservation awareness as well.
“Reading more often, zeroing in on high use months, then you bring it to people’s attention that they’re using a lot of water,” he said.
A report provided by staff in March to the Public Works Committee estimates an additional reading will cost the municipality approximately $10,000.
Residential water meters within the municipality are currently read in March and October and water usage is averaged over the six months prior. Under the new schedule, the usage will be averaged out over three four month periods, from November to February, March to June, and July to October.
During discussions, councillors Dave Haywood and Al Siebring expressed concerns that homeowners may exceed their water allotments during the July to October period, which includes three of the year’s driest months.
“That’s only 28,000 gallons and I would suggest that not only is there an increased activity for watering lawns, there’s increased activity for power washers, washing cars, showering… there’s going to be a tremendous amount of water used,” Haywood said.
Siebring proposed altering the schedule to break up the summer months but it was voted down four to two.
“I’m not saying we don’t encourage water conservation but this is going to have a major impact on people’s water bills,” he said.
Ruth Hartmann argued it will be possible for residents to keep to their allotments and that averaging the billing period out would skew true consumption numbers.
“It hides what people use and it needs to be brought to their attention,” she said. “Maybe that will add to the conservation.”
Mayor Tom Walker also pointed out that homeowners will be saved money in the event of a water leakage.
“We want to read more often and stop these extreme bills going out to folks, that’s what driving this,” he said. “If they want to use lots of water, you just write out a cheque, that’s no problem. We’ll sell it to you.”
“The water leakage problem is significant, so for that I am prepared to support moving from two to three readings per year with three billing periods,” Haywood concluded.
The recommendation passed with councillors Siebring and John Koury opposed.
The decision brings North Cowichan in line with other municipalities such as Ladysmith, Sidney and Courtenay who check their residential meters three times a year, however there is no set standard for meter reading. Some municipalities such as Ucluelet have their meters read monthly while Duncan, Nanaimo Regional District and Parksville have their meters checked every six months.