I was rather surprised to read in a recent edition of your newspaper a letter from Phil Harrison (“Where can he sign up for Courtenay water rates?”) that he is no longer a water meter advocate.
I know Phil Harrison quite well, and I have e-mails from him promoting the need for water meters Valley-wide. He is fond of the saying, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”
However, the main reason why I am responding to his letter is that it is riddled with so many inaccuracies that it needs some facts.
First, Phil ignores the fact that more than 68 per cent of water-metered residents, who will no longer pay the $435 annual fee for water, will pay less for water. These residents have been subsidizing high water users.
Phil Harrison is a high water user and based on the user-pay concept he will have to pay for the extra water he uses. This seems fair. Why should those who use less water pay for those who use more?
He states that the CVRD did not consider suggestions from its Sept. 17 public meeting (wrong date; it was the 23rd). That is not true.
Based on that meeting, we lowered the tier two rate from 95 cents to 79 cents per cubic metre, modified the multi-family rate to a per-unit basis (Phil Harrison’s suggested modification) and are now considering a rate for farmers with farm status.
He states conservers are not rewarded. On the contrary, if they use the minimum of 15 cubic metres a month (15,000 litres) over the year they will save $168 over the old flat rate.
Phil’s statement that the CVRD has a large surplus and has been overcharging for years is wrong.
The $15-million surplus is for bulk water service, not the local service area that provides water to rural customers. Big ticket municipal items that cost millions of dollars such as garbage, water and sewer are regulated by the province. Local governments have to ensure these services comply with provincial requirements.
Island Health (VIHA) has developed stringent rules with regard to water quality and we will have some major infrastructure costs to pay for a deep-water intake.
We need reserves to pay for these costs so we can lessen the amount we borrow and reduce the interest costs. Without prudent reserve funds we cannot pay for future capital costs when our infrastructure reaches the end of its life.
Contrary to Phil Harrison’s claim that meters are needed to increase revenue for reserves, our revenue is comparable to the old annual rate. His comment that we have reduced our water use by only 6.6 per cent is inaccurate, as it has been reduced by 17 per cent between 2011 and 2013 — and if you take in 2010, it is 27 per cent.
Millions of litres of water disappear into the ground with water leaks on private property. Meters will tell a resident immediately if they have a leak and it gives them the opportunity to repair it.
Phil Harrison’s water has been measured with a water meter. Now he has to manage it.
Editor’s note: Jim Gillis is the Comox Valley Regional District’s Area B director.