West Kelowna council has given the green light to consumption-based billing for water utility customers in West Kelowna Estates, the Pritchard and Lakeview areas, as well as other areas in the former Lakeview Irrigation District currently paying a flat rate for water.
Despite the concerns of Coun. Rosalind Neis, who along with others has said most customers may be like her and have not noticed the warnings consumption-based billing is coming or the record of consumption customers in those areas have been notified of on their last few bills, the arrival of what are expected to be bigger bills will come as a surprise.
Up to now, customers have paid a flat rate for water on their quarterly utility bills. But with the installation of water meters a few years ago, the area was told to prepare for consumption-based billing.
Records of consumption have been posted on the last few water bills sent out, say West Kelowna finance officials.
Already in use in the former Westbank Irrigation District area, the new type of billing will start off in West Kelowna Estates, Pritchard and Lakeview with the bill for the second quarter of this year. That period will cover April to June, and the bills will be delivered in July.
Municipal finance staff say they don’t want to start the new system later in the year because then it would cover the third quarter right off the top, which is always the highest consumption period. That quarter covers the height of the summer—July to September— when lawn sprinkling and other heavy water use activities prompt larger consumption.
But Neis said while consumption billing is the right way to go, she wants more notice given to customers.
Mayor Doug Findlater agreed saying that more warning should be given because may people likely do not realize how much water they are currently using. Both he and Coun. Dwayne Ophus joined Neis in voting against the change based on the timing.
But the four councillors who voted for the change argued the message is already out there and has been for some time. While they agreed it may come as a surprise for some, it will be less of a surprise than if it was left to reflect the bigger third quarter bill.
“Surprise is part of life,” said Coun. Bryden Winsby. “The Westbank folks were surprised, too. Get used to it and move on.”