The truth about water in the Comox Valley

This letter is more than a response to Paul Ives’ letter in the Comox Valley Record last week.

Dear editor,

This letter is more than a response to Paul Ives’ letter in the Comox Valley Record last week.

It is more about trying to get the truth rather than the propaganda leading to decisions about our water usage and pricing. I can back up everything I say with documentation, but that doesn’t work well in a letter. I will post this letter with all the proof on my blog, which you can find at

There is not, and never has been in recent years, a water shortage in the Courtenay/Comox area. We have a great source of abundant clean water and an arrangement with BC Hydro that delivers the water at a very minimal cost.

To sell the concept of Universal Water Metering, the regional district staff used incorrect and misleading statements and advertisements to make it look as if we did have a problem.

Every time I pointed out a flaw in their numbers, they came up with a new justification of the 27-per-cent reduction in our water use.  The RD still wants to cut our usage by another nine per cent.

I made a presentation to the water committee in May showing how they had been tricked into approving expensive water conversion measures.

The presentation gave examples of the incorrect statements. It also pointed that our original target was to get our residential use to the B.C. average of 490 litres per capita per day.

At that meeting, Mayor Ives said he did not believe my data.

If you divide the Comox water consumption in 2010 by its population and by 365 you would get 472 l/c/d as the total usage rate. Even that is below 490.

The Comox residential water use is 79 per cent of that — only 372 l/c/d. Courtenay’s residential usage rate is even lower at 358 l/c/d.  Details are in the blog.

In 2003 we had an application in to the ministry to more than double our water licence limit. In 2009 RD staff let that application lapse, saying that they wanted to wait until the Regional Water Strategy was complete.

That being the case, it is totally inappropriate for the RD to use our water licence as justification for water restrictions.

Bulk water rates have increased by 81 per cent since 2006 and this has been passed on to our water bills.

There was no need for the spending on water conservation. I heard that people are filling their rain barrels with their hoses. What is the point of that?

Just giving out water meters won’t even save water (which I repeat we don’t need to do) any more than giving people bathroom scales will reduce their weight. To have any impact, there must be rewards and penalties.

If the goal is to have those that use more water pay more, you cannot do that if only some of the users are on meters as is the case in Comox. A voluntary metering system will not achieve that goal since the heavy users will opt out.

Comox has a problem.

Many metered users are expecting lower water bills, yet the Town’s water costs will stay the same and will actually increase due to costs associated with meter reading and maintenance and with the bulk rate increase that was recently approved by the Comox directors at the regional district level.

The Comox grant that Ives referred to, about $450,000 from the RD that was used to partially fund their metering so far, is only 60 per cent of the $750,000 the citizens paid extra towards conservation.

A staff report, in December 2009, said the cost to totally meter Comox would be $10.1 million to install and support meters over a 20-year period. According to a 2008 RD staff report, the Universal Water Metering program would have cost $16.1 million (over 20 years with interest included it would cost $30 million).

I live in Courtenay where the City council had the good sense to back out of Universal Water Metering. However they did not have the sense to stop the regional district from keeping those high bulk water rates that were originally intended for UWM.

Only Jangula voted against that and the future increases that were included in the bylaw.

I end with the title of one of the posts in my blog: We have met the water conservation goals: Why do we keep on paying?

Richard Hallett,

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