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West Kelowna wants to educate water users on rate changes

User-pay water bills have been approved for residents in the three areas of West Kelowna still on a flat rate system.

And according to West Kelowna’s finance department, the average household in Lakeview will pay $281 per year under the new system, while an average household in Pritchard and West Kelowna Estates will pay $341 per year.

In the Westbank area, which already has consumption-based water billing, an average household pays $499 per year.

The reason for the higher rate there is because the area is still paying off the cost of the water filtration plant, built before the District of West Kelowna took over what was the Westbank Irrigation District along with the other four irrigation districts in the municipality.

The five areas are being run separately by the district for the time being because each has different rules and rates in the past.

Municipal officials say they are still years away from having one common rate for water throughout the municipality.

Under the new system, a portion of the water bill—$228 per year in Pritchard, West Kelowna Estates and Sunnyside, $346 per year in Westbank and $168 per year in Lakeview—will be a flat rate and then there will be a charge per cubic metre of water used on top of that.

That rate will be 20 cents per cubic metre in all but Westbank. It is now 27 cents, for the fist 100 cubic metres used.

From 101 to 300 cubic metres, the unit price jumps to 38 cents everywhere but Westbank, where it will be 51 cents per cubic metre.

According the municipality, under the new system low consumers will see their total water bill go down, average users will pay about the same as they pay now, and high users will see their annual bills go up.

The first quarterly consumption-based water bills will go out in July to cover April to June.Consumption-based billing is already used in the Sunnyside and Westbank water service areas.

It has been implemented in many jurisdictions in the Central Okanagan as a means of conserving limited water supplies in the Okanagan water basin.

Houses across the Central Okanagan have had water meters installed in recent years.

To prepare the public, the district will start a public education program in April, which will include a list of the new consumption-based rates, conservation tips and a water rate calculator.

The information will be added to the municipality’s website and notices will be included in the next water bill due out in April.

A sample bill will also be provided to show users where water usage rates appear on their bills.

Water usage amounts have appeared on residents’ bills in the past so the July bill will be the first time the consumption based rates are actually charged in the Lakeview, Pritchard and West Kelowna Estates water service areas.

But Mayor Doug Findlater said he feels the municipality needs to “think outside the box” when it comes to getting the word out. “I’m not convinced a newsletter and PSAs are going to get to everyone,” he said.

Findlater wants to see the message also get out in high traffic areas such as on the reader board outside the Westbank Lions Community Hall.

But while a majority of council voted in favour of the new rates at the council meeting earlier this week, Coun. Duane Ophus reiterated his opposition to bringing in the new system this soon.

While he supports consumption-based billing, Ophus wants to see more time given for residents to get used to the new system.

He noted it will not cost the district anything to wait, while it will give the public time to see what the new charges will be based on, with actual numbers, not estimates,, and allow them to budget accordingly.

 

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