Lake Cowichan council took a blast from the public hose Monday over its handling of water meters.
A fiery public meeting at Centennial Hall lasted more than an hour and a half, with various individuals choosing to stay longer in order to speak with councillors directly.
“I have a family of five, but I’m only allowed the same usage as a pensioner on their own,” said resident Eric Karlsen. “That’s not equitable.”
Resident Cathy Wagner sympathized with Karlsen.
“Pensioners being allowed the same amount of water as a family of five, I don’t feel this is the best solution. I really feel we should hold out for a year, get people to register how many are in their household and take it from there.”
Houses in Lake Cowichan that have a water metre are charged a set rate by the town for 35 cubic metres of water use per month. If households exceed that, they are charged for the overage. Businesses are billed if they’re over 20 cubic metres a month.
Deputy mayor Tim McGonigle chaired the meeting in Mayor Ross Forrest’s absence, joined at the front desk by Councillors Jayne Ingram, Bob Day and Franklin Hornbrook.
“Thirty-five cubic metres water allowance is actually much higher than the Canadian household average,” said McGonigle, who continuously thanked members of the public for their input.
“In the city of Duncan, you only get 28 cubic metres. We, in Lake Cowichan, are still in the infancy stage of water metering. As Canadians, we take our water for granted.
Barb Veitch grows a vegetable garden and is concerned the current cost of water will force her to abandon her hobby.
“In order to eat healthily and keep ourselves in shape, we need water,” said Veitch. “If water costs me $400 per month, I can’t afford that. Please don’t take my garden away from me.”
Resident Hubert Crevels continuously pounded council on the issue.
“You want me to give you money all year and then you’re going to bill me extra if I’m over 35. Why don’t we get credit if we’re under 35? It should be one or the other.”
David Darling runs the OK Tire store in Lake Cowichan alongside his wife.
“We’re (currently) congratulated for our conservation with a bigger bill,” said Darling.
McGonigle admitted the issue is something council is “still struggling with.”
Day attempted to explain some logistics.
“It takes dollars to run the water system,” said Day. “We can’t just run it on usage, there’s not enough money. This is not our water. We’re sharing it with everyone in the Cowichan Valley. So it’s not about screwing the taxpayer, it’s about conservation.”
“Whatever is raised through the water fund, you can only use it within the water system. We have to do that as we’re mandated to do so by Vancouver Island Health Authority,” said McGonigle.