The District of Squamish is moving forward with a water metering implementation program for industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) properties, as well as multi-family properties including townhomes and apartments.
Up to 160 water meters will be installed in existing buildings by spring 2018, with additional meter installations planned for the following year. Billing based on meter readings will be introduced at a future date, once the district, with substantial public input, has developed a new water rate structure.
Currently, all new ICI and multi-family buildings constructed in the District are required to install water meters in accordance with District bylaws. The water meter implementation program is focused on retrofitting existing buildings with water meters.
“Our initial goal is to create a system that allows us to detect leakages effectively, and be able to react quickly and specifically,” says District of Squamish Mayor Patricia Heintzman. “This metering program will help us to create a fairer system for multi-family, industrial, commercial and institutional property users, while allowing us to achieve capacity and conservation goals. It’s a positive step forward.”
Water metering is one of the primary recommendations of the 2015 Water Master Plan to address water supply and consumption concerns in preparation for future growth.
ICI and multi-family properties were chosen for water metering for various reasons:
- ICI customers are some of the community’s biggest water users. A significant opportunity exists to improve water conservation among this group through metering, due to the large variations in water usage from property to property.
- The cost of universal metering (metering all properties across the District) is significantly higher than other options. Single-family homes account for 90 percent of water service connections in Squamish, requiring 4100 meters to be installed for universal metering at an estimated cost of $9.5 million. Covering the cost of a universal metering program would likely mean significant rate increases to properties through Utilities fees – in the range of a 20 percent increase over five years.
- The life-cycle cost over 20 years for ICI and multi-family properties combined is relatively affordable at $3.5 million.
- All newly constructed multi-family properties in Squamish are required to install water meters, and so retroactively metering other multi-family properties achieves equity amongst this property type.
- This combined group accounts for an estimated 40 percent of the water usage in Squamish, while metering less than 10 percent of water services, achieving the best cost/benefit ratio.
- This strategy allows for a phased approach where the District can consider moving to universal metering in the future if desired.
Funding for the implementation of up to 160 water meters was provided by a provincial and federal grant through the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund. The grant provides $701,978 in funding and an additional $143,778 will be drawn from the District’s Water Utility for a total project budget of $845,756