Referendum on Universal Metering: Background

Poll is now closed.

262 ballots submitted of 443 eligible voters (59%) — 256 votes tallied; 6 abstentions

Should the VPID board proceed with financing the installation of water meters on all properties?
Yes – VPID should proceed with a plan to finance the installation of water meters:107 votes (41.8%)
No – I do not want the VPID to proceed with the universal installation of water meters:149 votes (58.2%)
No – I do not want the VPID to proceed with the universal installation of water meters wins with 58.2% of the vote.
Source: ElectionBuddy

An electronic vote was held on the topic of Universal Metering for the VPID. It closed Sunday, January 30th at 8pm. Note that all title holders of properties in VPID are entitled to vote; for example, if there are two title holders for a property, both get to vote. This referendum is not restricted to only those who currently have water service; all title holders can vote.

Here are some useful things to know as you consider whether you are in support of a proposal to install meters on each VPID subscribed property. We’ll cover A. Water supply and demand, B. Meters, C. Costs, and D. FAQ: answers to general questions about this referendum.

You will also find on this web site a more detailed financial analysis.

A. Water supply and demand information

  • We live in an area with finite capacity to provide potable fresh water. A groundwater study completed a few decades ago suggests our aquifer (the porous layers of ground beneath our properties that hold fresh water) can likely supply roughly 8 million gallons of water per year.
  • We have six wells currently in operation, which for the past few years have supplied roughly 5.8 million gallons of water per year.
  • One of these wells (#19) began operating this summer and appears to be a good producer (~ 3,800 gallons/day, 2nd highest production currently).
  • Our water plant has a storage capacity of approximately 90,000 gallons.
  • Demand for water increases considerably during the summer, especially on holiday weekends, when daily outflows from the plant can exceed 20,000 gallons.
  • Meanwhile, the aquifer receives very little new water in the summer, so the supply of water during late summer can be strained.
  • Because of this, sometimes the storage of water at the plant can fall to levels that make it necessary to replenish the storage with water brought from off-island in trucks. This has happened twice in the past four years: in 2018 5 tanker loads were purchased and provided 19,000 gallons; in 2020 3 tanker loads were purchased and provided 11,400 gallons; in 2019 and 2021 we did not need to purchase water.
  • The number of properties using water in VPID is increasing. We currently have 237 properties with connections and 38 with no connections. 5 additional connections are projected in the next five years.

B. Potential benefits of meters

  • Household meters would allow individual owners to become more aware of their water use rates, which might motivate conservation behavior, especially if a “general average” of “conservation-level” use rates were made public.
  • Research elsewhere suggests that when household meters are installed, water consumption declines. The most rigorous studies suggest reductions of up to 15%, although there is quite a bit of variability among studies and among households within a study area. For example, West Vancouver reported a 15% reduction in annual water consumption after water meters were installed.
  • Household meters could improve VPID’s ability to detect and reduce water loss due to leaks on individual properties. VPID managers believe that the existing meters, located on the main service lines at 4 points throughout the VPID, and 15 shut-off valves distributed throughout the system, are together very useful for effectively isolating leak areas within the VPID system. However, household meters, if monitored regularly, could pinpoint household leaks more efficiently.
  • Regarding leaks, in the past three years the estimated total water loss due to leaks was:
YearVPID systemResidential# residential leaks
20190 US gal.20,350 US gal6
202015,333 US gal.12,150 US gal14
2021223,000 US gal92,000 US gal8
Note: We had 2 sizeable residential leaks in 2021; one that was 39,000 to 42,000 gallons and one that was 30,000 gallons. The location of these leaks made the search for them difficult

C. Prospective costs

  • Installation: For VPID, water meters must be placed in new, larger boxes within a local environment that may range from loose soil to conglomerate. Based on quotes received, we estimate that the average installation cost will be $1000 per household.
  • Hardware: At $150, the least expensive meter that we examined is battery driven and its LCD display must be read on-site by VPID staff. A mid-range option adds a transmitter that makes the meter readable by wand, a simpler and less error-prone process, but raises the price per unit to about $250. The most sophisticated meters communicate to a remote server, eliminating the need for drive-by or walk-by readings, but the price jumps to $400 or more per unit. An additional charge of $20 annually per unit for data storage is offset by eliminating the need for VPID staff to read such meters on-site.
  • To summarize, the total cost of installation and all hardware is between $1200 and $1600 per household. If these costs were spread over a decade, at current interest rates, the basic residential water bill would rise by about $15/month from $75 to $90. This alone will cost $180 per year. Note that this may be an underestimate because it is based on previous vendor quotes, and doesn’t include the labor costs of collecting and analyzing of meter data. Accounting for these factors would increase the cost by an additional $5 or more per month, resulting in a total monthly charge in the order of $95.
  • Note that installing water meters will not reduce VPID’s operating expenses.

You will find also some information about water meters and water conservation on our Frequently Asked Question page, and in the report of the Water Conservation and Metering committee report from January 2021.

D. Frequently asked questions (about the referendum)

1.    Are all property owners whose names appear on title eligible for a vote?

Yes. As an example, a husband and wife whose names are both on title will each get a ballot. But there is only one ballot per person, even if you own multiple properties.

2.    Is the proposed non-binding vote confidential?

Yes. The software used for the vote is credentialed and virtually bulletproof. Individual Records will not leave Canada, nor are they permitted to be used in any other way than for this singular vote. Nobody will know individual votes. Only the aggregate is made available to our return officer (and webmaster), who is a trustee.

3.    Is a binding fiscal vote possible through electronic voting?

No. See Bylaw #119 on our website. Municipal Affairs dictates that such votes must be in person.

4.    Will a binding fiscal vote occur this year?

Should there be a positive non-binding vote at the end of January on the question, the VPID board will arrange a Special General Meeting where all property owners can be present. With health restrictions related to covid 19, it seems unlikely this year.

5.    Will there be changes in individual property owner taxes and/or tolls this year?

      No. The budget for 2022 has been set. The year’s budget was set in late November so that tolls and taxes could be ratified by the Ministry for a start in January. This is the normal case.

6.    Several owners ask that we stop talking about this idea. “We’ve been at it since the district came into existence, and all votes over 40 years have been negative.”

The electronic vote will determine what follows.

7.    Can part-timers get a break in tolls?

This is unlikely for the first year should universal metering be introduced. The district must set up benchmarks over the first year of use, with no change in rates. Then the financial analysis presented here must be considered

8.    What is the expected life of the best self-reporting meter?

About 10 years. Further cost can then be expected, either in terms of battery replacement or innovation, but this is far in the future.

9.    Does the cost of implementation and the ongoing heightened administrative cost, justify the intent of conservation through metering?

Not in the opinion of the current Board.

Vote progress:

2 thoughts on “Referendum on Universal Metering: Background”

  1. Hello. It seems that metering might make it easier to find leaks, but what steps have been taken so far (or investigated) to upgrade the aging infrastructure to reduce the leaks? Perhaps that would be a better first step. I haven’t heard any information about potentially stopping the leaks.
    Has this been discussed? If so, what came from that discussion?

    1. Debra,
      Thank you for your question. Yes meters would make it easier to find leaks on private property.
      The major leaks we’ve experienced lately were on the residential side of the system, that is between the “curb stop” and the house, or even in the house as we experienced earlier this month.
      VPID does not have the right to force residents to upgrade their infrastructure, only to ensure they repair leaks on their property when they occur.
      The VPID infrastructure is in rather good shape; a few years ago, VPID upgraded the mainline pipes on Spinnaker, Leighton Lane and Lundy Lane. Some of VPID’s most serious and expensive infrastructure leaks occur in road crossings. To replace all road crossings would be a very expensive undertaking and one that we have no plans to do. What we are planning on doing is to continue the project of locating hidden “corporation stops” which will assist in leak detection.
      We need to continue work on policy and education (for example: “Turn your curb stop off when you leave the island”), maybe looking at a stricter policy and higher charges (we are not allowed to impose penalties or fines).
      See our water connection policy, and in particular section 5.

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