Water restrictions for the north part of Area D are moving to stage two. File photo, Campbell River Mirror

Strathcona Regional District wants water meters for northern Area D

Meters just part of plan, along with education and enforcement, to reduce use

The Strathcona Regional District is looking at universal metering as one way to reduce water use in the northern part of Area D.

The area has been the subject of late following hefty rate hikes resulting from high usage. The new rates do include increases for the small number of residential users of meters as well as those paying flat rates, who represent about 99 per cent of the population.

RELATED STORY: Strathcona Regional District hikes water rates for rural area

The goal now is to get the community on meters, and to do this, the SRD is applying for a federal grant, due by Aug. 29.

“We’ve been talking about Area D water consumption since I’ve arrived,” outgoing Environmental Services Coordinator Jenny Brunn told the SRD board at the Aug. 15 meeting. “That was the first presentation I made, and it will be the last presentation I make.”

The demand on the system for the north part of the electoral area has grown, as as Brunn said, the SRD needs to address this in as many ways as possible.

“Universal metering is definitely the most effective option,” she said.

RELATED STORY: Regional district takes further steps on water rate hikes for area south of Campbell River

A staff report suggests that water conservation education alone could amount to a 15 per cent reduction in use, but with metering, demand could be reduced by 30 to 60 per cent. Elsewhere in the report, SRD data show average usage in the north of Area D is more than double the average for its metered users, users to the south in the Black Creek-Oyster Bay system or average metered users in Canada.

Area D Director Brenda Leigh said that some of the increase in costs for the rate hike was not due to water consumption in the region but due to the rates being charged by the City of Campbell River, which provides bulk water. While she suggested going ahead with the application, she wants 100 per cent funding for the project.

“Unless we get 100 per cent grant funding,” she said, “there isn’t any room in the Area D maximum levy … to allow for anyone in Area D to pay another red cent towards the water system, unless a project is taken to referendum or alternative approval process. There’s no more room.”

Larry Samson, one of the Campbell River directors, asked about the question of leakage and what measures could be taken. The SRD report estimates about 15 per cent of demand comes from system leakage. For example, on July 20, the City of Campbell River sent out a notice it had to fix a leak to the water main that feeds the majority of water to northern Area D.

Leigh responded that Samson was “jumping to conclusions” in what was causing the increase in water rates.

There is currently $1.3 million in Community Works Funding for Area D, though just over half of this is earmarked for a booster pump station. To alleviate the cost of metering, the SRD will apply for an Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program – Green Infrastructure Environmental Quality Sub-stream Grant. This would cover 73.33 per cent of the funding, with the remainder coming from user fees. The SRD estimates it will cost an average of $1,800 for each meter if the project is done at once, though the cost would be covered up front by the SRD.

As far as water conservation education, the SRD has run the program since June. SRD Water Conservation Educator Luisa Richardson says many residents have been taking steps to let their lawns brown and reduce water.

“The majority of residents have been adhering to the Stage 2 water restrictions,” she said in a news release on Aug. 20, “but in the few instances where people haven’t … we have been knocking on doors and sharing information regarding the water schedule. The restrictions apply to all sprinklers and soaker hoses used for outdoor vegetation watering, including gardens, lawns and plants.”

The SRD is now ready to move into Stage 2 watering restrictions, which includes enforcement. At present, the regional district expects these restrictions to remain in place until Oct. 7. Residents can get more information or report excessive use by calling a hot-line at 250-203-1820 or emailing water@srd.ca.