Town scraps idea to install water meters on homes

Smithers Town Council was expected at yesterday’s council meeting to pass a Town of Smithers Water Conservation Plan that has been stripped of any mention of residential water meters. At a Committee of the Whole meeting on January 13, councillors debated an amended plan that had already extended timelines and removed requirements for meters on existing homes.

  • Jan. 26, 2011 3:00 p.m.

Smithers Town Council was expected at yesterday’s council meeting to pass a Town of Smithers Water Conservation Plan that has been stripped of any mention of residential water meters. At a Committee of the Whole meeting on January 13, councillors debated an amended plan that had already extended timelines and removed requirements for meters on existing homes.

The plan is necessary for the Town to receive a Building Canada Fund grant to complete construction of the South Trunk Storm Sewer; one of the requirements for the funding is a plan addressing water conservation. The province could withhold payments of over $400,000 until the plan is submitted.

Councillor Mark Bandstra pointed out that the plan was a rush job, since the delay of completion of the storm sewer resulted in the new plan requirements.

“We were kind of rushed into this water cons strategy, not because it’s part of our agenda right now — it’s because we need to have something on paper and on file so we can get paid for our storm sewer,” he said.

He suggested removal of any mention of water meters from the plan, pointing out that even though it’s just a plan, it will create expectation from anyone that reads the plan.

“The first thing under implementation is ‘apply for grant money.’ Well, what if we get it?” asked Bandstra. An earlier study completed for the town suggested that installing meters across the whole town could cost upwards of $1 million.

The Town’s draft plan includes information from a 2001 provincial/federal study that notes B.C. residents use 490 litres of water per person, per day. The average across Canada is 340 litres. The average in Smithers is 600 litres, and 665 in Houston. Mayor Cress Farrow said that unlike many other communities, Smithers doesn’t have to worry about running out of water any time soon, so the conservation plan is a requirement he believes shouldn’t apply to Smithers.

“There was a little bit of concern that this is being implemented across entire regions, and we always know that one size does not fit all. I think that was the biggest concern that we have. We do not have a water problem in the town of Smithers,” he said.

Bandstra said he doesn’t believe there’s a problem in Smithers either, and suggested that the town’s conservation plan should consist mostly of public education.

“If you’re going to have a water conservation plan, we need to be able to go to our citizens and say we’ve got a problem,” he said.

Bandstra also requested that several other sections be removed from the draft plan, including retrofitting Town facilities with efficient fixtures and water-saving technology, as well as a plan for the town to create “best practice” demonstration projects.

“We’ve got other areas where the money could be better spent than retrofitting our buildings with different fixtures,” he said.

The amended plan is left with a public education component, including pamphlets and doorknob reminders, and possibly a rain barrel program. Since the Town has already started a public education program, there’s minimal cost to the Town. Farrow said cost was a key factor, since he couldn’t support a conservation plan that would cost more than it would save.

“We just want people to be more aware that at some point in time there could be a problem, so to be prepared and to make sure that we educate well in advance,” he said.