Greater Vernon’s water rates are stirring up debate.
Regional district staff say the average amount paid for residential customers in 2015 was $760 a year, which is at the high end of a survey of 48 utilities (cities) by the American Water Works Association.
The survey showed a range of $396 to $779 (in Canadian dollars) a year for water.
The rates led to a lengthy debate at Friday’s Greater Vernon Advisory Committee meeting, with director Jim Garlick saying his fellow directors should keep it in mind when they set the yearly rates.
“Be aware of it when we make our decisions,” said Garlick. “We have to consider that in going forward, and if you don’t, you will get bit, and people will lose trust in us.”
Greater Vernon Advisory chair Juliette Cunningham says the numbers don’t tell the whole story as every utility is different.
“It’s complex. It’s really difficult to compare a utility to another utility, or to even compare one area to another area, because we have agricultural water as part of our system. We have an agricultural-domestic system,” Cunningham told CJIB News.
Director Doug Dirk noted there is sensitivity to the cost of water.
“We should put all the information out there (on RDNO web site), and people will realize how complex it is,” says Dirk.
Utility manager Zee Marcolin says factors in Greater Vernon’s rates include the level of service, the treatment required, customer classes services, and ongoing upgrades to infrastructure.
Meantime, the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee wants to present the facts when local water rates are publicly criticized.
As part of the same debate, the committee discussed a recent letter to the editor to the Morning Star where the writer claimed the area has “one of the highest water rates in North America — if not the highest.”
GVAC chair Cunningham says they want to address what they see as misinformation.
“I think if you see something that is obviously not clear, accurate information that I think it’s fair to the public that they get the other side of that because they’re the ones who are impacted when we have rate increases,” Cunningham told CJIB News.
Director Mike Macnabb agreed that incorrect information should be challenged by the facts.
“It really annoys me when I see this (letters to editor). You’ll never convince this person he’s getting a good deal.”
Another part of the discussion was the installation of ERT (wireless) water meters in Greater Vernon homes, which started in 20165, to replace old technology meters.
Utility manger Zee Marcolin told the board, the devices should be installed in all Coldstream and Vernon homes by next year, and in the RDNO electoral areas by this year.