Proposed Water Metering Unfair: Shady Tree Owner


Commercial establishments such as the Shady Tree pub might have to pay more if the district adopts a new rate structure based on a flat and variable charge. Photo: Gagandeep Ghuman

 By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Jan. 19, 2013

For water metering, at least the district is being upfront about one thing: there will be ‘winners’ and ‘losers’.

At least one business owner says he would be on the latter side if and when the new water metering system kicks in.

Eivind Tornes, the owner of Shady Tree, says the new water metering system being proposed is unfair and would hurt his business.

“It’s tough to fathom why we need water metering, regardless of the district leaking pipes, and reservoir,” Tornes wrote in a letter to the council.

The district is thinking of replacing the flat rate charge with a combination of a flat and variable charge, as a way to bring metered and non-metered users on a level-playing field.

There are at least 11 metered buildings in town, including the Squamish Terminals, which is the only major industry that is metered.

If a flat and variable charge structure is approved, the pipe that services your house or business will decide how much you pay.

The district is quick to say this isn’t a change to the residential rate.

This is not a rate increase but a change in structure, said Christina Moore, the district spokesperson.

“The new structure can more equitably charge ICI (Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional) and multifamily complexes that are currently NOT metered.”

Still, the fact remains that in the new proposed system, residents or businesss who happen to have a pipe bigger than two inches will end up paying more than they do now.

So, if you pay roughly $17 now with a current 2’’ pipe, the proposed flat rate will be $28 plus a variable rate of $16.

Do the math.

Now, increase the size of the pipe and more money starts to trickle out of your pocket.   

Those who have a 4’’ pipe, such as the Shady Tree, will end up paying more.

Go to 10 inches, and you will realise the only water free is the one sent by the rain gods.   

The increase is enough to worry business owners like Tornes.

“Between water and sewer, we are now paying about $3,500 a year, which for the water is about five times more than the average residence,” he said.

The district wants to enforce a more equitable system, but the best it could come up was a fixed and variable rate system.

This formula is supported by the American Water Works Association (AWWA), and works on the premise that a bigger pipe use more water.

That notion was debunked in the council chamber last week, and council voted to bring back a report on water metering.

Only a water meter can determine everyone’s fair share, but the district staff has said it’s a costly endeavour.

But even that is contested by Coun. Patricia Heintzman.

She believes a real honest discussion on water meters has never really happened in the council chambers.

The time has come to do that, she said.

“We have yet to determine the cost of water metering,” Heintzman said.

She also said it’s a common misconception that we must be water surplus just because it rains a lot here.

“We don’t have droughts here, but we do have to restrict water usage in the summer,” she noted.

Squamish residents consume double the amount used by average Canadians.

An average Squamisher consumes 600 to 700 litres a day.

According to Heintzman, even a non-metered community in the province consumes in the low 400 litres range.

A metered one, she said, is just 260 litres.

As home based businesses that were double-billed last year would agree, the system needs to be changed.

Whether a fixed and a variable charge system being proposed is the desired change remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, the district will start educating the public on this new system.

The district is planning on hosting two public open houses in February to engage the community.

Before that, you can check the size of your pipe, and see if you are a ‘winner’ or a ‘loser’.


  1. Dave says:

    What’s the point of a meter if it doesn’t actually measure the net amount of water delivered to the home or business????
    Who cares how big the pipe is? We all should be only charged for the water we use!
    I should check the diameter of the wires which deliver the electricity to my home. Maybe I will be a winner, or a loser.

    • Peter Legere says:

      Exactly! Usually the larger pipe reflects only the requirements for a sprinkler system, and has no bearing on the amount of water flowing through it.

      My building required a 3″ inlet to accommodate the sprinkler system, but I was forced to install a 4″ inlet pipe because the district didn’t install 3″ services.

      Too bad we don’t have the 20 million that has been wasted by our town government since the millennium to put towards our neglected infrastructure.

  2. Peter Gordon says:

    The sooner we convert to water metering the better. It is the ultimate in fairness and equity. It is also a great incentive for implementing conservation measures. The only thing it doesn’t address are the leaky pipes in the distribution system.

  3. TCee says:

    Time for an open, transparent, honest discussion about water usage, water metering, costs and charges in this community, not just within the inner sanctum of Council but with the public (residential and commercial). It is wrong and inequitable that we should all ( wasters and savers) be charged the same. Yes, our infrastructure is in a mess, and has been for some time. That partly accounts for the huge wastage going on in Squamish. But that’s only part of the story. Why should I who does not water the lawn, when my neighbours do incessantly; does not pour water down the drain by washing my car 2-3 times a week while my neighbours do, while letting their hoses spew water down the gutters; minimizes laundry loads and dishwasher’s; and generally tries to save water; why should I pay for the wasters’ water-wasting ways? Why should I subsidize them? Council and staff by doing this are only encouraging water-wastage of the most egregious kind. But then again why should I be surprised – so much is wasted in this town in other ways as well. And the way Council and staff deal with it is to dip into our pockets yet again.

  4. Jason Bechard says:

    I don’t why the people of Squamish are so paranoid of water metering. Oh wait! Could it be because many home owners are guilty of leaving their sprinklers running for days on end to have that perfect green lawns.

    The days of the free ride is over folks, you want a world class ‘outdoor’ community, well your gonna have to pay for it some how. Time to pay the piper and stop robbing peter.

    I’d gladly pay be able to flush my toilet, have decent water pressure and clean water if it’s stops the rather frequent boil water advisories during the summer and sewer back ups.

  5. Dave says:

    I don’t want to be a winner or loser. Council should just charge each business or household for the the VOLUME of water they use…End of story!!! If I have sensitive plants in my garden that need more water or I like to entertain my friends in a large pool then I should be prepared to pay for these things. But the diameter of the pipe…Which idiot came up with this idea, I wonder??? I am all for water metering.

  6. Nate Dolha says:

    The only way to level the playing field is to meter water, and have the charges based on actual consumption. The added plus of watching how much you use will lead to conservation, as big green lawns get expensive fast…

  7. Elliot says:

    I take offence to the deceptive comment by a councillor that we the residents are responsible for using up to twice as much water as other communities. The rate of 600-700 litres a day may be an accurate total measurement, but is more likely due to large leaks in the system, the responsibility of the district. It is completely conjecture and exaggeration to blame the usage level on us residents!
    Why don’t you start with meters on sections of district mains, and perhaps commercial users with supply lines bigger than one inch. There is very little evidence of excessive water usage in residential neighbourhoods, after all, compared to communities in dryer areas of BC, we really don’t have as many dry spells. Get real.