Water is going to get a bit pricier in Kelowna with council approving a four per cent hike in the monthly water rate, moving the cost from $44.57 to $46.09 for the typical single-family household in the first year.
Another four per cent rate increase is expected the next year.
Raising the rate by four per cent on a steady basis allows the city to avoid a big rate jump when large capital expenses arise, Kevin Van Vilet, the city’s utility services manager, told council Monday when the rate hike was approved.
“(Kelowna’s) water rates are very competitive,” said Van Vilet. “We have some of the cheapest water for homeowners in Canada. One reason (for that) is our great staff and the other is that our water is clean enough that we don’t have to filter it. That’s why it’s worth it to deal with storm water management and wastewater management, and we can defer need to filter water for as long as possible.”
While the cost is low in comparison to other cities, Coun. Luke Stack pointed out that it’s a good idea to let people know why they’re paying more— particularly that the incremental rise in cost is a capital improvement fee that will allow the system to be maintained going forward.
“People think water is expensive but know how important it is,” Stack said, letting them in on costs and how the system is being maintained allows them to not feel like they’re just being squeezed.
In addition to the rate increase, council discussed the hundreds of new water meters, which track consumption on a real-time basis, being tested in Kelowna this year.
If the trial project is deemed a success, all 17,000 of the existing water meters will be replaced over a six-year period beginning in 2020.
The automated meter reading system will use an established local cellular network to report usage to the utility on a daily basis. These meters are considered more reliable, efficient, and resilient than the current system, accounting to city staff.
The city’s water system serves about 70,000 people. Other large providers are Rutland Waterworks, Black Mountain Irrigation District, the Glenmore Ellison Improvement District. The city intends to eventually take over these independent water providers.
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