Making water rates cheaper for some in the Strathcona Regional District’s electoral area D would make them more expensive for everyone else, a SRD staff report revealed.
That revelation that led the board to to abandon the idea.
However, there were some ideas that came out of the Jan. 26 meeting that could help make things a bit cheaper.
Back in June, area D director Brenda Leigh asked SRD staff to look into ways to provide relief for high water rates. That was in response to a previous report from staff about what external relief options there were. Leigh asked instead for internal sources of relief.
Currently, the electoral area contracts water services from the City of Campbell River. The contract requires that the rates charged to users cover the cost of the water purchased from the city, as well as maintenance, operations and any upgrades necessary to the system.
Leigh further asked staff to explore options similar to the Strathcona Gardens L.I.F.E. program to help people experiencing financial hardship. The L.I.F.E. program offers people who qualify for discounts at Strathcona Gardens, among other benefits that are not directly applicable to the water rate issue.
The SRD staff’s report shows that any discounts to water rates for one group would have to be recuperated from another group. Essentially, the total cost of the system will need to remain the same, and discounting rates for one group would mean higher rates for another.
“I’m not enchanted with the idea of robbing Peter to pay Paul,” Leigh said during the Jan. 26 meeting. “The problems with water rates is that they are unregulated and way too high.”
She added that the problems would be addressed by “improvements to the system.”
Those improvements are “municipal digital meters that are accurate, back-flow valves that stop the water from moving back and forth across the line, things like that that we have instituted recently that should reduce the water cost for everyone.”
Another solution is universal metering. That would let people pay for the water they use, instead of a portion of the bulk water purchased from the city. The regional district will be applying for a grant to help cover the costs of the universal metering.
“That will make the system more fair, people will pay for what they use,” Leigh said.
Due to the lack of options for providing relief for certain groups in the regional district, Campbell River director Charlie Cornfield moved that the board not pursue the concept. However, the motion was not seconded and the discussion ended with no motion being voted upon.