Lake Cowichan posts reduction in water conservation and passes new policy for billing on leaks

Council illustrated further reduction in water consumption from town residents but admits there are still a few problems with leak billing

The Town of Lake Cowichan has told of a reduction in water consumption compared to this time last year by town residents for the first six months of the year.

The numbers were read out by superintendent Nagi Rizk at last week’s Public Works Committee meeting.

“For the first half of 2013, we were using 343, 470 cubic metres of water,” said Rizk. “This year we are using 289, 470 cubic metres. That’s 54,000 cubic metres reduction in water use for the first six months of the year. That averages to about 9,000 cubic metres reduction in conservation per month for those first six months of the year.”

Rizk also said that in 2011, that number for the entire year was 885,750 cubic metres of water usage and this year year the predicted number is 761,660.

The news comes as a positive to the town during so much turmoil and desperation of low water levels in the Cowichan River all summer.

“It’s interesting to see that it went down,” said Coun. Bob Day at the meeting. “I guess when the word gets round then people start learning.”

However, Rizk confirmed that it was not all good news with the town still experiencing some “substantial leaks” which prompted some high water consumption numbers in certain places.

“These were detected by the water metres,” he said. “The owners were unaware of them or they were leaks that came about unintentionally. It’s not always just high consumption.”

As such, chief administrator Joe Fernandez brought a new policy forward to the council table at the meeting regarding billing for leakages which was passed unanimously.

“As we send out bills, some people discover that they have leaks and so they end up with a fairly substantial bill,” said Fernandez at the meeting.

Through the policy, if a leak is fixed within 30 days of realizing it is there, the town will not charge the property owner for the inevitable overuse.

Property owners must submit their leak adjustment application letter with 30 days of becoming aware of the leak or receiving notification from the Town of Lake Cowichan.

“This is not about collecting money,” said Mayor Ross Forrest. “If someone has a leak and becomes aware of it and fixes it then we’ve accomplished our goal. We want people to fix mistakes and conserve water. If they are making the effort, then there should be lenience for them.”

There will be no adjustments made for the following: all internal plumbing systems and fixtures; irrigation or sprinkler systems on a property; in-ground or above ground pools, ponds and fountains, any auxiliary lines connection to the main water water line; premises left abandoned or vacated without reasonable care for the plumbing system.

Only one leak adjustment is permitted per property owner and main water line within a 24 month water consumption period and adjustments will only be granted when the utility account is in good standing and no previous amounts due are outstanding.

“The objective is to get the leak fixed,” said Forrest. “It might cost someone just as much to get a minor leak fixed as it does a major leak.”

Coun. Jayne Ingram expressed concern for those who are unaware of leaks that are away on vacation.

Rizk addressed this aspect further.

“We set up an appointment to have their meter checked. If there is a minor drip, it will show up,” he said.

Director of finance Ronnie Gill also confirmed that some people are still unhappy with the billing process.

“A lot of people want it averaged and not monthly,” said Gill. “But that is a problem because people use water in the summer and so an average doesn’t work. This year is a prime example of that,” she said.