Pitt Meadows gulping lots of water

Thirsty greenhouse growers make it second in Metro Vancouver behind Delta

Agricultural demands have Pitt Meadows more water per capita than most in Metro Vancouver.

Agricultural demands have Pitt Meadows more water per capita than most in Metro Vancouver.

The City of Pitt Meadows is one of the largest consumers of water in Metro Vancouver, with greenhouse operations using the most.

In 2011, the city purchased 3.32 million cubic meters of water from Metro Vancouver, supplying water to a population of approximately 17,700 residents and 594 non-residential water users, or 571 cubic metres per capita.

The city still falls far below Delta, which gulps more than almost 700 cubic metres of water per capita.

“Our per capita consumption is high because of our population size and the fact that we are the only municipality that has such an extensive rural water distribution system,” explained city director of operations Kim Grout.

Although the city’s waterworks bylaw restricts service connections to just one per property in the rural area, the demand for more water for agricultural uses continues to increase.

Flat rate customers in the city are still subsidizing metered customers, who account for approximately 40 per cent of the community’s total water usage but only generate 23 per cent of the revenue.

Pitt Meadows is also faced with an ongoing challenge of ensuring the city’s water utility rate covers regional price hikes and the city’s operating costs.

Although the city has slowly increased how much people pay for water, its metered rate barely covers the cost of purchasing water from Metro Vancouver, and the cost to operate, maintain, and eventually replace infrastructures.

A comparison of metered rates in other municipal jurisdictions in 2012 shows that Pitt Meadows’ rates are less than those charged by the other municipalities surveyed.

Grout said the challenge is regional water pricing increases.

City staff have recommended council continue to monitor water rates so they can determine whether gradual or more aggressive increases are needed in the future.

Grout said the city will also revisit metering for all properties in 2014.

Current estimates to install meters at residential properties is between $800 to $1,200 per household, or $2.4 million to $3.6 million in total.

In the meantime, the city continues to remind its residents to conserve and use less water by enforcing summer restrictions, subsidizing rain barrels and offering rebates on more efficient toilets.