COLUMN: Metered water the way to go

Cornwall city council decided at Monday’s meeting to vote against a water conservation plan for lawn watering. The plan was to alternate allowed lawn watering daily between even and odd numbered houses. The plan was a weak alternative for the best method of water conservation — water meters.

Understand that government does not have and should not be given the power to grant you when you water your lawn. But to tie in and use the municipal water system, usage should tracked and you pay for what you use. It is unfair for those who use less to subsidize those who use more. Installing water meters and billing for actual usage is best.

A flat rate system for water use is unsustainable. Apply the flat rate system to electricity and the cost to the average home would be more, even with Cornwall Electric being able to buy cheaper power from Quebec.

Neighbouring municipalities like South Dundas have had municipal water meters for over a decade. There was a cost to the municipality to install, but the result of which has been water conservation. Those who use more, pay more. Those who use less, do pay less.

There is a flip side of water conservation. When people use less, rates do increase as the fixed costs of water infrastructure is the same. The fix for that is more users, meaning residential, commercial and industrial growth.

The cost of installing water meters city wide is estimated at $8 million. That is if all meters are installed at once. Council could start the ball rolling by mandating all new construction have water meters installed. An incremental approach should be adopted with sections of the city having meters installed each year. This would lower costs to the city and the water system users. As water meters are installed, and given the “smart meter” technology involved, meter users should see financial benefits immediately.

Homeowners should also be given the choice. They can have a water meter installed, or stay flat rate. Understanding that there will be much cheaper water and sewer rates for water meter users.

Cornwall water users have had it too good for too long. Few municipalities in Ontario have flat rate usage. Forget the ecological argument for conservation, and look at the financial one. Why should someone who uses less pay for someone who uses more? They shouldn’t and that is why adopting a phased in water meter system for Cornwall should be done.

Council needs to take leadership on the issue, instead of attempting motions of “mother may I” to give permission to water the lawn. Let the home owner decide with their wallet and be responsible for their own use.