Comox Valley rural residents propose water-use rate structure

A group of Area B residents have proposed a rate structure for water use in rural areas.

A group of Area B residents have proposed a rate structure for water use in rural areas, which they say will compare favourably to Courtenay and Comox while meeting financial and conservation goals of the regional district.

Appearing at Monday’s Electoral Area Services Committee meeting, the group suggests residents in Areas B and C who use a minimum amount of 180 cubic metres of water pay the ‘Comox rate’ of $327 per year. Those exceeding the minimum allowance to a maximum of 800m3 pay the ‘Courtenay rate’ of $440 per year. The group also proposes surcharging $1.24 per cubic metre to those who use more than 800m3 to discourage excessive water consumption.

“Why are we paying so much for water?” Dave Mellin said. “Why are we at $435 with another rate increase? We feel it needs to be fair to everyone.”

The CVRD’s mock billing program for water meters is nearing an end. Five mock bills were to be mailed, the last one in September. The purpose of the project is to decrease consumption and to improve the chances of obtaining government grants and water licenses, among other benefits. The CVRD implemented the program in the Arden, England Road, Greaves Crescent, Marsden/Camco and other water local service areas in late-2011 when the water metering project was completed.

Mellin’s mock water bill shows a $750 charge.

“We enjoy our properties and work hard to make them attractive,” said Tim Rabbitt, noting rural yards and gardens require a certain amount of water.

Phil Harrison said Comox and Courtenay each “use a lot of water,” but senior manager of engineering services Marc Rutten said rates cannot be standardized across the Valley because jurisdictions operate separate water systems and determine their own costs.

The committee approved the following recommendations for residential that will appear before the CVRD board for adoption Oct. 29:

• $22.17 flat monthly fee up to 15 cubic meters per month;

• Tier1 charge of 64 cents per cubic metre over 15 m3 up to 45 m3 per month;

• Tier 2 charge of 79 cents per cubic metre over 45 m3 per month. This amount has decreased from 95 cents per cubic metre, with which residents had taken issue.

In a recent interview, Rutten said only 50 or 100 of 1,500 district residents would receive a yearly bill of $800 or $900. The lowest consumers of water, on the other hand, would pay less than $250 per year.

According to the mock bill program, 900 residents were below the Tier 1 line and 1,400 below the Tier 2 line in winter. In spring and fall, 750 moved into Tier 1 and 350 into Tier 2.

About 1,000 households will pay the same or less for water under a metered billing system than with the current flat rate system, according to the district. About 300 households will pay the base amount of $266.04 per year, which provides a savings over the $435 flat fee currently in place.

“We do what benefits most people,” said Area C director Edwin Grieve, who suggests the CVRD could look brilliant six years from now.

If the board adopts the above recommendations, residents will receive their first bill with the new rates in December.

reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

 

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