The Cleveland Dam holds back the Capilano Reservoir in West Vancouver.

The Cleveland Dam holds back the Capilano Reservoir in West Vancouver.

Conservation-minded Metro urges water metering

Region aims to delay costly steps to increase water supply

Metro Vancouver will press area cities to consider universal water metering as part of a broader strategy to conserve water and forestall the need to expand local  reservoirs.

Metering single family houses – so residents pay for what they use and water wastrels are hit hardest – is one of the planks in Metro’s newly approved Drinking Water Management Plan.

Not all Metro cities back the idea.

“It’s simply a scam to make the consumer pay more money,” says Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan.

He said the provincial government has repeatedly pressed Metro cities to adopt water metering so private firms can “satisfy a phoney need” and profit from the policy.

“The numbers don’t work,” Corrigan said, adding there’s no solid evidence that water savings justify the steep costs of metering.

He puts water meters to reduce waste in the same category as smart meters to block power theft by grow-ops and TransLink’s installation of turnstiles to block fare cheaters.

“It preys on people’s fear of being ripped off,” Corrigan said. “If you think someone’s ripping you off, no cost is too much to stop that.”

Most cities in the region require water meters for multi-family and commercial buildings.

But several are moving to require meters in new single detached houses or that they be added when there’s a major renovation.

Some charge high flat rate fees that create an incentive for households to voluntarily go metered and cut consumption.

Langley City and West Vancouver meter all homes while Surrey and Richmond now have most of their detached houses on water meters.

Metering does deter waste, according to Belcarra Mayor Ralph Drew, who sits on Metro’s water committee.

“People conserve more,” he said. “When municipalities switch to metering, consumption is reduced by about 20 per cent or more.”

Area residents might think water is abundant in Metro Vancouver, particularly during the rains of winter.

But with the population growing by 35,000 a year, the region is steadily closing in on the limits of what it can deliver at peak demand periods in the summer.

The plan warns climate change may bring longer, drier summers and smaller mountain snowpacks, increasing stress on the water system.

Metro has already banned evening lawn sprinkling in favour of early mornings only, when demand is lower.

The region also charges member cities a higher wholesale water rate of 64 cents per cubic metre in the summer than the off-peak rate of 56 cents the rest of the year. (It’s up to each city how those costs are passed on to residents.)

Other conservation steps – from low-flow appliances to the use of rain barrels for garden water – are also advocated.

But a day of reckoning is coming when more water will be needed than Metro can now supply.

The Coquitlam Lake reservoir would be the easiest way to open the regional tap wider.

Right now, Metro gets 10 per cent of the lake’s discharge, while the rest is reserved for B.C. Hydro to generate power at Buntzen Lake.

“It’s a very large reservoir with a very deep catchment area and could easily extend service for Metro Vancouver for many decades to come, just by increasing the share that goes to Metro from 10 to 20 per cent,” Drew said.

But that would require Hydro’s consent and Metro would presumably have to pay to compensate the utility for the energy it could no longer produce.

Depending on the price tag, it might be cheaper to pursue alternatives, such as building small new dams to increase storage in small alpine lakes high in the region’s watersheds.

Raising the Seymour dam to create a bigger upstream reservoir above North Vancouver is another option, Drew said, as is eventually ending recreational use in the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve and turning it into a reservoir.

The problem isn’t just the storage capacity of reservoirs, Drew added, but also the eventual need to increase the capacity of the pipes and pumps that carry the water to each city in the region.

“By conserving, you put off the demand and extend the timeline of having to do those kinds of things,” Drew said.

The cost of the water system has already been rising steadily and there’s no end in sight.

Metro now spends $223 million each year to collect and supply water for the region.

The average water charge of $213 for each home has risen 66 per cent in the past five years as the region starts to pay for the $800-million Seymour-Capilano water filtration plant on the North Shore, built on orders from health officers to eliminate occasional bouts of turbid water.

Metro water rates are projected to rise another 30 to 40 per cent over the next five years.

Some of the increase will pay for a project now underway to add ultraviolet disinfection of water from the Coquitlam reservoir to reduce the risk of contamination by cryptosporidium. That reservoir, which serves the eastern third of the region, currently uses ozone disinfection.

The drinking water plan also calls for generation of hydroelectricity at Metro-run dams, reforms to price the cost of water more accurately and more action to find and plug leaks in the system.

Metro is also to explore the use of alternative non-potable water sources, such as rainwater harvesting for irrigation, reclamation of grey water and waste water for select uses and the potential use of river and sea water by waterfront businesses.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chief Constable Norm Lipinski, Surrey Police Service. (Submitted photo)
Surrey chief constable says ‘comprehensive’ public engagement to be done this year

Norm Lipinski says Surrey Police Service has ‘good momentum’

Dyllan Petrin is charged related to an ongoing investigation in Surrey involving a kidnapping and assault that occurred in July, 2019. (Photo: Surrey RCMP)
Man arrested in connection to kidnapping, murder investigations: Surrey RCMP

Police say Dyllan Petrin was arrested in Vancouver

Crews work to clear the aftermath of a three-vehicle collision that occurred Wednesday morning (Jan. 20, 2021) at the intersection of 16 Avenue and 156 Street. (Tracy Holmes photo)
One person to hospital following three-vehicle collision in South Surrey

Police say it appears one driver went through intersection ‘as if it was not even there’

Surrey-raised forward Jujhar Khaira in action with Edmonton Oilers. (Photo: nhl.com)
Q&A: Surrey’s Jujhar Khaira credits parents for their hard work on his path to NHL

Port Kells-raised player talks about his journey to pro hockey with Edmonton Oilers

New United States Vice President Kamala Harris (left) and President Joe Biden (right) are sworn in at U.S. inauguration ceremonies Wednesday morning in Washington, D.C.. (Saul Loeb/Pool photos via AP)
Surrey Board of Trade highlights innovation, policy changes as new U.S. president sworn in

COVID-19, border re-opening among issues affecting city, SBOT says

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley.
1-in-5 COVID tests coming back positive in and around Fernie, sparking concern

Dr Ron Clark of Elk Valley Hospital said one in five tests was returning positive for COVID-19

Ralliers gather in front of the Cityviews Village apartment building in Maple Ridge to protest attempts to evict low-income tenants by the building owner. (Ronan O’Doherty - The News)
Tenants protest pressure tactics by new landlord at Maple Ridge apartment building

Protest held in front of Cityviews Village on 223 St. Tuesday to rally against low-income evictions

Most Read