If the City of Revelstoke is going to install water meters, what kind of metering system should they install?
The third and final in a series of drinking water reports prepared for the City of Revelstoke says “district metering” is the most effective option for reducing water consumption through metering, and is the only option that will not haemorrhage taxpayer dollars.
The so-called ‘Veritec’ report is named after the consulting company that authored it. It is currently proceeding through city committee consultation and will be discussed at a Revelstoke City Council meeting soon.
The report says that district metering would save more water than universal metering. It estimates that district metering would save 302 megalitres of water per year, while universal metering would save 234 megalitres.
The report also presents a third option – ICI metering, which stands for industrial, commercial and institutional metering. The concept is to place meters on businesses and commercial users’ facilities. Throughout the report, the concept comes in a distant third; it is relatively expensive and would only save 18 megalitres of water annually – way behind the frontrunner options.
District metering means, basically, metering and testing the main arteries of the water distribution system to determine where water loss is occurring, then pointing to effective replacement projects to reduce water loss. It can be as simple as finding a major leak and digging down to patch it up.
Universal metering means putting a water meter on every home, business, commercial and industrial property, then charging for water use by volume. The idea is that charging people for water will motivate water conservation.
The Veritec report points to a key concept: the fact that an estimated 51 per cent of treated water in Revelstoke is lost between the treatment plant and the end-user’s hookup. It leaks away into the ground through old, broken pipes and faulty connections. The existing instruments to measure water flow are not precise, meaning the margin of error is 27 per cent, so water loss could actually range between about 24 per cent and 78 per cent.
The report finds that targeting this water loss is a more effective investment than seeking gains through individual conservation via home meters.
The Veritec report says water conservation should be done on a ‘triple bottom line’ basis, considering the financial impact to residents, the environmental impact of leaking chlorinated water into the ground and the social, health impact of possible water contamination through leaky underground pipes.
The Veritec report shows district metering as the clear winner from a financial standpoint. The report breaks down and compares lifecycle costs of the various programs over a 16-year period. The final dollar figure balances financial savings on things like reduced chemical treatment and water filter costs with the cost of implementing the metering system.
Universal metering is the most expensive. Depending on the type of meter used on the home (radio meter, manual meter, smart meter) the costs range from $1,379,053 to $1,922,990.
The second most expensive option is ICI metering. Depending on the type of meter used (radio meter, manual meter, smart meter) the cost over 15 years is estimated to range from $515,633 to $600,772.
According to the report, the district metering system was the only option that will actually save the city money. It calculates the city will save $6,242 over 15 years if they go with the district metering option.
So, what is the up-front cost for the district metering system? According to the report, if the city started next year, it would cost $238,300 over the first two years, but that doesn’t include the cost of leak repairs.
The district metering concept tries to find exactly where the leaks are happening using a variety of technologies including meter verification, night flow analysis, step testing, acoustic monitoring tools and pressure management assessment.
Once pinpointed, crews can dig and make the repairs.
Although district metering appears to be the frontrunner, it’s now up to city council to decide what to do with the report. They could move forward with the recommendations right away, but that would require budgeting-in the up-front costs. Council could proceed with parts of the strategy, or defer the work to future years.
Mayor David Raven said moving forward with the entire district metering system next year is unlikely. Raven said council will face a tight budget cycle this year. He said parsing the recommendations for bite-sized budget items is more likely.
“Each one of these programs has to be evaluated on their initial costs,” Raven said. “The totality of the the whole thing is probably beyond what we have.”
Raven added: “It’ll be the low-hanging fruits as most efficiently as we can, but we just don’t have the money for the entire program,” Raven said.
Interested in taking a look at the whole report? Here it is, starting with the staff summary: