A decision on whether or not to adopt water meters in Revelstoke may be years off, but even a council debate about a water metering study shows how politically high-pressure the issue is.
At the Sept. 11 council meeting, Coun. Tony Scarcella led objections to the concept of water meters and even studying them, saying the city hadn’t yet seen results of less costly conservation measures. He said an estimate from several years back pegged the cost of implementing household meters in Revelstoke at $5 million.
“Who’s going to pay for it? The taxpayers?” Scarcella questioned. “The taxpayers are fed up.”
Last week, the city posted a request for proposals for a water metering study. The city is looking for a contractor to study water metering here and make recommendations.
The study will explore both the ‘if’ and ‘how’ questions. The recommendation may be to not implement water metering. If it’s a ‘yes,’ the study will recommend how, including the type of metering, rate structures, equipment, billing and cost estimates.
In a city with relatively good water supply, balancing cost is at the core of the debate. Will future development in Revelstoke necessitate an expansion of the current (and relatively new) water treatment plant? What is the cost of that compared to water metering, which would theoretically cut demand and forestall expansion?
City of Revelstoke environmental sustainability coordinator Page-Brittin said the city had budgeted $50,000 for the study, but she expects the actual cost to be much less, telling council it would likely be $25,000 to $30,000.
Coun. Steve Bender presented mixed feelings. “We know from experiences all over North America that water meters work. They work a lot more effectively than sending out people to police [illegal sprinkling].”
However, Bender said the study would likely recommend metering. “When you call [for a] request for proposals, what usually happens is you get a positive on it, because that’s just the way it works,” he said. “They work, but they’re expensive. That’s what it comes down to.”
Coun. Phil Welock emphasized it was about comparing the cost of expanding the water treatment plant versus the cost of metering.
“Most days we go through about a million US gallons of water in Revelstoke … Some days we could go through two million if people are sprinkling,” Welock said. “I think we have to rely on education. I wouldn’t want to be putting signs on the sidewalk asking people not to sprinkle their lawns.”
He added: “I think we need to go ahead with this [study]. I think we’ll have a positive result.”
Mayor David Raven sought to quell debate, noting there wasn’t a decision before council. “This is not about approving water meters, it’s about making an informed decision sometime in the future,” he said.