Town of Lake Cowichan refuses switch to water averaging

Declined: Council decides to stay the course in order
to protect summer supply

Town of Lake Cowichan Council meeting

Town of Lake Cowichan Council meeting

They listened, they discussed, they said no.

That was the answer from Lake Cowichan town council to citizens who wanted to see their monthly water allowances averaged over the course of a year, rather than month-to-month.

Council agreed to take a look at averaging late last month after a presentation by former mayor Jack Peake.

“We did look at it a few weeks ago and decided we would not be averaging, for quite a few reasons,” said Mayor Ross Forrest.

“The main reason is the summer months give the hardest hit to our water system,” he explained.

“So if everyone were allowed to average, the hit in the summertime would be very detrimental to our system at a time when the lake level is at its lowest (and) the river is at its lowest.”

Water meters were installed in the town during the past few years and council allowed each household 35 cubic meters of water — 35,000 litres, or 7,700 gallons — per month.

Once the meters had been installed and some initial numbers had been crunched, council looked at provincial and national usage numbers and arrived at the current allowance.

“Thirty-five cubic meters is on a very high threshold of all the municipalities, ours is probably the highest — probably too high,” said Forrest. “We want to work our way down and will gradually lower it,” he said, without giving a target number.

So far the meters have been a success, said the mayor. However, 90 households recently received letters warning of higher than allowed water usage.

Peake was one homeowner who received the warning.

“In the month of March, I only used 16 (cubic meters), in April I used nine, in May I was at the maximum of 35, and in June I was at 52, then it really went through the roof in July at 112,” he said, while making a case for averaging.

But Forrest argued the town only has an obligation to provide water for its citizens, not store it for them as well.

“If they want to store their own water and use it in the summer, they’re more than welcome to,” he said.

So far there is no penalty for going over the allotment, but that will change in the new year, said Forrest.

The town is not only looking at charging for extra water going into the homes, but what’s coming out as well.

“We have to because (overuse and water destined for the sewer) go hand in hand,” he said.

“We have no idea what people are using water for, but in the summer odds are its being used to water lawns and gardens or whatever, we certainly can’t tell if someone is using the washing machine 25 times a day, but that impacts the sewer system.”

The ballpark figure is around 70 for extra water and 61 for the same amount destined for the sewers.

“Our intent is to get people on track and pay attention to their water usage,” said Forrest, who noted the town has identified several major leaks now the meters are in place.

“We’re pleased so far with the results.”