In 2020, the average household consumption in the Village Point Improvement District was 65 US gallons (245 liters) per day per household. We anticipate this average to rise over the years. Several years in a row we had to have water trucked in by the end of summer. This has led to discussions about how to encourage conservation. And one question that has arisen is whether we should install household water meters?
The VPID board of trustees had set up in November 2020 a committee to investigate this question, including the costs for installation and for operations, the pros and cons of having individual water meters installed for each household, benefits or drawbacks for the community and for the individual homeowner.
The committee met 6 times over 3 months, surveyed the homeowners in January (see survey report), and delivered to the board a set of recommendations to the board in a full report in February 2020:
That the Board adopt the suggested goal of 55 US gallons (208 liters) per connection per day over the upcoming year as a benchmark for our expected efforts at conservation this year.
That the Board mandate the existing Metering Committee for another year, with revised scope in the terms of reference to focus on educating householders on issues related to water conservation efforts and metering for VPID. These efforts should be informed by the VPID Water Conservation Strategy.
That the Board set as an agenda item for the AGM of 2022 a referendum on whether VPID should carry out a project which adds meters to every water connection.
Subdivision of the area constituting the Village Point Improvement District occurred almost fifty years ago, and there are now over 230 hookups to the community water system; excluding system maintenance, households consumed just under 5,600,000 (U.S.) gallons of treated water in 2020. Our water is processed through the VPID plant on East-West Road; the rate of system leaks is small, accounting for less than 0.44% of processed water in 2020, for example. In recent years, water draw has approached the capacity of the VPID wells in the summer months, so that an additional well (#19) will be brought into production in 2021. If run at capacity, well #19 could take the total VPID water draw toward 7,500,000 gal/yr, easily enough to handle current demand. However, the preliminary hydrology report in 1974 for the VPID area estimated the productivity of its aquifers at around 8,000,000 gal/yr, meaning that we would be approaching the system limit if we drew this much.
Water usage per VPID household has gradually declined in the past two decades to about 60 gal/day per household, before jumping to 65 gal/day in 2020. In an effort to understand their water usage and to learn their conservation strategies, we surveyed a number of water districts on Mayne and neighbouring islands that have installed water meters. Taking into account the estimated percentage of residences that are occupied full-time (40% for VPID), VPID usage lies somewhat above the trend of nearby districts that have household meters, which span 40 to 115 gal/day per residence. For 2021, we recommend that VPID adopt an overall target of 55 gal/day per household averaged over all residences, to be achieved through education and individual conservation, a reduction of 15% from 2020.
Looking beyond 2021, we feel that water usage may need to be managed more actively, and we recommend that VPID discuss the installation of household water meters at its 2022 Annual General Meeting and subsequently put the question to a formal vote of VPID property owners. Most comparably-sized water districts in the Gulf Islands have already chosen this route: one district on Pender found that water consumption declined by 13% after meters were installed (data from other districts on the effect of metering are not available to us). We canvassed VPID homeowners for their views on meters, and achieved 136 completed responses: most homeowners are in favour of metering, with about 15% strongly opposed. A plurality favoured paying no more than $500 per installation, and would prefer to see the cost spread over two years. Sixty percent of respondents already collect rainwater!