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Water metering on the horizon for Nelson, initiative predicts

By Timothy Schafer, The Nelson Daily

To water meter or not to water meter, that has been the question in Nelson for years.

But it appears the answer to that question will inevitably be metering, as a regional charter to encourage water conservation illustrated that instituting water meters is the single most effective practice a municipality can undertake — accounting for a 25 per cent reduction in water usage.

However, for the time being the answer is no to metering, as City council has chosen to take a softer approach — fixing leaking infrastructure pipes and public education — to conserve water under the Columbia Basin Trust’s Water Smart initiative they will be acting on in the New Year.

“Council hasn’t had the discussion around how to pay for water metering and how to install it, but that will probably be coming up as part of this initiative we are working with,” said Coun. Deb Kozak.

“It’s going to be a lively discussion at the council table.”

On Monday night in council’s committee of the whole meeting, Kindy Gosal, director of Water and Environment for the CBT, gave council an overview of the initiative, laying out the overview of the charter in an attempt to educate Nelson council on what they have signed on to.

“We are looking at focusing on demand side management with municipalities, … but at the end of the day local municipalities are going to be responsible for implementing the Water Smart values and we have to figure out a way to be supportive of that,” he said via teleconference from Golden.

Water Smart is a Columbia Basin-wide approach to address water consumption at a local level, aiming to achieve a 20 per cent reduction in gross community water use by 2015.

And one of the best ways of reducing consumption is by instituting water meters, said Gosal.

“Water metering has shown to save at least 25 per cent on the amount of water people use, and that’s your reduction right there,” he said. “(With) water metering you can see who is using the most and where, and then adjust.”

But you need public buy in, said Gosal. People think it is their inherent right to use as much water as possible.

The realities are water conservation actually does save the City money, said Mayor John Dooley, because it allows them to reduce the amount of infrastructure needed to bring water to people.

“Prior to metering we have to clean up our own backyard first with leak detection and replacing bad pipes,” he said.

“Exactly. I don’t think you can go to the public in good conscience without fixing those leaks first,” said Gosal.

Water Smart will provide up to five days ($30,000) of funding for City staff time to implement the initiative if they sign the Water Smart Charter, depending on the aspects the City chooses to implement. The charter is an agreement to work at the local level and collectively reach regional goals.

There are two phases to Water Smart and Nelson is part of phase two. A draft plan for Nelson will be completed by Jan. 24 and the draft could be signed by the end of February. The final plan could be adopted by March.

The Water Smart team will help develop a baseline inventory and water use profile for Nelson, create a water balance and assemble data for council to base their decisions on.

“Then you can see where your focus will go and determine your water conservation means,” said Gosal.

Water Smart is a partnership between 19 municipalities, two regional districts and the CBT.