Let’s get on with water meters, building water treatment plant

Are you in favour of paying more or less for Kamloops’ new water treatment plant?

Indicate your choice with an x.  More ___? Less ___?

That’s the question that should be on the upcoming referendum on universal water meters.

Water meter

We can save millions of dollars in building our new water treatment plant by reducing water consumption with universal water meters.

Stacks of research aren’t needed to solve this one, although research backs up intuition.  Simply ask any reasonable person if they would consume more of anything if they didn’t have to pay for it.  Of course they would.  Its human nature to use more of anything that you don’t have to pay more for.

For example, would natural gas users bother to insulate their houses, use efficient heaters, and turn down thermostat if they could use as much gas as they liked.  Not likely.  Common sense and research show that consumers are more careful with things that they pay for.

I admire councillor Peter Sharp for studying the use of universal water meters before finally making up his mind.  It’s refreshing to see a politician have the political courage to change his mind once the facts are clear.  He was against meters when he campaigned for councillor in the last civic election.

After Sharp studied the idea of using water meters, he decided that universal meters  were the best way to reduce the cost of a new water treatment plant.  “I still firmly believe that I have a right to learn,” Sharp said.  Many Kamloopsians agree.  Thousands have become educated on universal water meters and changed their minds in the last year.

When the Water Use Efficiency Committee surveyed the public a year ago, only 36 percent favoured water meters.  Most thought that water could reduced  through regulations.   A year later, many changed their minds.  In a recent survey, 46 per cent agreed that water meters should be installed universally.

Some of those who opposed meters thought that since water is an abundant resource, it should be free.  When you live at the junction of two rivers, the idea of free water is a seductive one.  But water is only free if you go down the river with buckets, or wait for it to fall from the sky.   The pumps and pipes used by the city are not free, nor is the electricity required to run the water pumps.   If you want water delivered to your house, you have to pay for it.

And if you want water that won’t make you sick, you’ll pay extra.  Clean and safe water is not an option.  The Regional Medical Officer has ordered that the City deliver safe water, free from turbidity and microorganisms.  I don’t know what took him so long.  The lack of major water borne disease in Kamloops is more a result of good luck more than good management.

Without a new water treatment plant, its just a matter of time before Kamloopsians suffer the calamity of infection from Cryptosporidium as Kelowna has, and more recently, North Battleford.  If friends and family were dying of water borne disease, city council would have gone ahead with meters and a cheaper water treatment plant long ago.

Education on water conservation has gone as far as it can go.  Concerned Kamloopsians have reduced water consumption by about 20 per cent, but others still could care less.  I see people ignoring the bylaws: watering on the wrong day, in the daytime, all night.  The only way that these people are going to learn is through the wallet.

Water enforcement could only have a greater impact by transforming  citizens into informers and snitches who will turn in neighbours to the water police.  Or, like Cranbrook, where the fire department has been enlisted into clandestine nocturnal water patrols to catch night-time water offenders.

The well on MacArthur Island won’t remove the need of universal water meters.  It will produce 40 million litres per day but on July 1 we used 100 million.  And the water is not yet proven to be palatable due to high manganese and iron content.

We have been spared water bourne deaths so far, but let’s not push our luck.   Install universal meters and build the new lower-cost water treatment plant — the sooner, the better.

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