Ucluelet wants to transition its water bills to a metered system starting with local businesses.

Ucluelet wants to transition its water bills to a metered system starting with local businesses.

Rough start for Ucluelet’s water meters

District doubles water rates to push businesses onto metered system.

Ucluelet is nixing its flat rate water charges and moving to a metered system, starting with local businesses.

This transition was supposed to be well on its way by now but many businesses aren’t playing ball so the district will double their water rates until they comply.

Ucluelet’s district office sent letters to 55 local businesses back in November telling them to install water meters by March 31 but just eight businesses had obliged before a Feb. 23 report submitted to Ucluelet’s municipal council by finance manager David Douglas.

“A significant number of our customers have not started the process of changing to water meters,” Douglas wrote adding the best way to speed up the process would be to increase the fees non-metered businesses are paying.

“Staff would like to see doubling or tripling of the current fixed water fee,” Douglas wrote.

After reviewing Douglas’ report on Feb. 23, council agreed to double the rates though Coun. Sally Mole urged staff to ensure sufficient notice was given before double-sized water bills were sent out.

The doubled fees would kick in for May’s billing cycle but Douglas suggested the district’s revenue would not be impacted because, he hoped, all businesses would be signed onto the water meter program by then.

“It is the hope that all commercial customers will be on metering at that point; however without some form of motivation, it is unlikely,” Douglas wrote. The soon-to-be-replaced fixed-rate system saw businesses charged a flat fee, based on the business class they belonged to, and bills sent out every four months.

The district’s chief financial officer Jeanette O’Connor told the Westerly after the meeting that the new water meter rates will include a minimum monthly charge of $14.25 for up to 23 cubic metres of water and $0.61for every cubic metres over that allotment.

She added all businesses would pay the same rate regardless of class.

“The amount each class will be paying for water will probably be significantly less than the flat rate they are paying now,” she said.

“That will change over the coming months as we still require the same amount of money for not only the maintenance and repair of the water infrastructure but also the replacement of the aging infrastructure. Not knowing how much water is being used makes it very difficult to estimate how much a business may end up paying for the water they use.”

She said water meters would help promote water conservation in Ucluelet.

“The district has had to implement water restrictions the last two years, so it makes sense to switch to water meters,” she said adding both the federal and provincial governments are encouraging communities to switch to meters and have been reluctant to award grants to non-metered communities.

She suggested after shoring up businesses the district will look to put residents on meters to further promote conservation and also enhance equity.

“A single family residence is charged a flat rate of $96 every four months for water,” she said adding it is difficult to speculate on what the average monthly bill would be once these residences are metered.

“Metering water can be seen as a fairer way to charge for water as you pay for what you use. A couple may use much less water than a family of six.”