Most Cornwall homes would save on water meters: study

Cornwall CFO Tracey Bailey and Infrastructure Division Manager Michael Fawthrop make a presentation to city council on Monday, Dec. 12, 2022 at city hall. Study data from a pilot project suggests about three-quarters of households would save money on water meters. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – City council has heard results from a pilot project suggesting a majority of homes in Cornwall would save money on water meters.

CFO Tracey Bailey and Infrastructure Division Manager Michael Fawthrop claim 76 per cent of residential customers would save money on the devices, which are expected to cost nearly $16 million.

The data was collected from 1,900 meters that were installed in homes through a voluntary pilot program in 2007.

It was a presentation before city council tackled the 2023 water and sewer budget that is looking at a increase of 2.99 per cent for flat rate customers or an extra $21 to $29 a year. Metered customers were facing a 7.89 per cent increase or $505 to $2,022 depending on volume.

But a number of councillors were somewhat skeptical of the findings and whether the actual population would see their bills go down.

Coun. Sarah Good was “fearful” the data might not represent the general population because those pilot program users “might already been conscientious.”

“Are you sure that the family (on) this program that is representative of all the people of Cornwall?” Coun. Fred Ngoundjo asked. “It seems representative,” Fawthrop answered, but he could not guarantee it.

Coun. Elaine MacDonald said she was one of pilot water meter users when it started 15 years ago. She noted that it detected a leak in her former home.

Asked by Coun. Claude McIntosh whether any municipalities found that conservation was so good they had to raise rates later, Fawthrop said “not off hand.”

The city has already spent $1.7 million on the water meter project so far.

Fawthrop says their data shows that Cornwall water use is about 400 liters per household per day compared to the provincial average of about 250.

Administration also says adding the water meters would address inequities in the system for billing residential, industrial, commercial and institutional customers.

Coun. Syd Gardiner said it’s not the right time for water meters with economic hardships people are facing right now plus a number of multi-million projects on the horizon such as a new fire hall, arts center and a secondary water intake.

Gardiner added that he’s not against meters in the future when interest rates are lower in the future.

As of 6:30 p.m., city council still hadn’t made a decision on the water and sewer budget.