Cathy Peddle felt like she was doing the smart thing when she signed on to be part of the water meter pilot project in Corner Brook in 2009.
Now that any new construction or major renovation project in the city will require the installation of a water meter — at a cost to the builder or homeowner, Peddle is even more sure she was right.
She figures it’s only a matter of time before meters will be in every home and business.
Peddle was one of 110 homeowners who agreed to have meters installed to measure just how much water was being consumed in her home. The monthly updates from the city helped Peddle and her family find ways to reduce the amount of water they were using.
The project helped them realize their toilets were needlessly leaking water. They also began reducing the amount of water used for daily chores and began doing things like reusing the water from their dehumidifier to nourish plants in the garden.
They even decided to buy a high-efficiency clothes washer and a water-saving dishwasher.
The pilot project is over, but the Peddles still get three or four updates a year regarding their daily water usage.
“It’s good because, if you see a particular day is higher than another day, then you can try to figure out what you did or why you used more water on a particular day,” she said.
At last week’s public meeting, Corner Brook city council passed a motion requiring any new construction or any major renovation projects will require the installation of a water meter at a cost of $350. The cost will be included in residential permit fees from now on and is effective Jan. 1, 2014.
Council still has to determine whether that $350 will be applied retroactively to building permit fees already granted so far this year.
During the discussion of the motion, Coun. Josh Carey noted the city’s current cost to treat water is between $300,000 and $500,000 per year. That amount is going to rise dramatically, he noted, once the city’s new water treatment plant is operational within the next year.
“When we turn the valve on the water treatment plant, the operating cost of water and sewer in Corner Brook is going to go to between $1.3 million to $1.5 million,” said Carey.
Corner Brook provides water to the neighbouring towns of Massey Drive and Mount Moriah. An agreement already in place with Massey Drive contains a clause that requires that municipality to adopt any water conservation methods implemented by the City of Corner Brook, so the decision of council to require water meters on new construction will also be enforcable in Massey Drive.
Mayor Charles Pender said during the public meeting that a similar clause will be included in the next water service agreement with Mount Moriah when it is due to be renegotiated in the next year or so.
Pender said the cost to the city will increase even more in the next six years or so as Corner Brook is expecting to have to begin also treating its sewage by around 2020.
“These meters can go a long way to helping reduce the amount of water we treat on both ends and reduce the overall costs to residents,” said the mayor.
The water meters are still meant for monitoring purposes only and not for billing residents for water consumption.
Peddle, though, is sure that the cost of treating water both before and after consumption will eventually be covered through a more direct fee than how tax dollars are currently found for it.
“Somewhere in the future, we are going to have to start paying for water usage because, with the water treatment plant and a sewage treatment plant to follow, they’re going to have to come up with a source of revenue from somewhere,” she said. “It seems very likely that’s the direction they’re headed in.”