Several requests have been made for additional information to assist on decision making for the upcoming referendum on water meters. Below is a financial analysis.
A. Project costs:
Installation: 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: Several types of meters were considered. The selected meter communicates usage information to a remote server, eliminating the need for drive-by or walk-by readings. The cost is $300 per unit. The cost for a new, larger box and miscellaneous equipment another $100. 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. For 250 meters, the annual cost is $5,000.
Total Capital Cost: The total capital cost for 250 meters is 250 X $1,400 = $350,000.
B. Potential Savings and Economics:
The annual cost to borrow $350,000 at 2.0% over 15 years is $29,000, resulting in an annual tax increase of $106 for all properties, connected or not.
The majority of operating costs are fixed (such as daily labour, insurance, audit fees) regardless of the volume of water consumed. A 15% reduction in water usage will only affect hydro and chlorine costs. The annual savings are estimated to be $1,000.
Potential labour savings in finding leaks on private property is estimated to be $1,500 per year.
Over the last 4 years, the cost to truck in water averaged $2,000 per year. Assuming meters would eliminate the need to truck in water results in a $2,000 annual saving.
The cost to collect and administer data is estimated to be $7,500 per year in addition to the $5,000 mentioned above in A.2.
Annual savings = $ 4,500
Annual costs = 41,500
Net increase in costs = $ 37,000
1. There is no economic benefit to installing water meters since the total annual cost for water would increase an estimated $37,000 per year.
2. The only justification for installing meters is to allow VPID to move towards a consumption-based invoicing system whereby full-time residents would pay considerably more and part-time residents slightly less for water.
3. Note that all property owners not yet connected to water would have a tax increase of $106 per year.
C. Consumption Based Invoicing:
The current system recognizes that most operating costs for providing water are fixed no matter what volume of water is produced and consequently each connected property is charged the same toll. Suppose instead that all operating costs, fixed or otherwise, are charged to a residence according to how much water is consumed. Three alternative scenarios for consumption-based invoicing are analyzed:
1. A couple living full-time on Mayne and consuming 120 gallons per day.
2. A couple uses their residence only during the summer or 62 days.
3. A couple uses their residence all year but are there only 30% of the time.
The below calculations are based on tolls reverting to normal rates after the accumulated operating deficit eliminated and operating costs for water become $.0306/ gallon:
The conclusion is: that full time residents would see a significant increase in water costs, while summer only residents will save in the range of $166 per year and those who use their properties part-time year-round would see little change.
An electronic vote will be held the week of January 24th to 31st, 2022 on the topic of Universal Metering for the VPID. 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. Make sure that our administrator has your up-to-date email address(es) at email@example.com. (If you are receiving invoices and newsletter by email, you’re OK.)
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.
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:
# residential leaks
0 US gal.
20,350 US gal
15,333 US gal.
12,150 US gal
223,000 US gal
92,000 US gal
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.
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?
Phil passed away suddenly in late July. Phil was well known to the Village Bay community. Always ready to address systems problems or discuss things, he is sadly missed by his VPID family. We will miss his enthusiasm, friendship and love of life. Rest in peace Phil.
At various times throughout the year, messages are sent via email to about 80% of the property owners. We are grateful to those who provided us with email addresses. For those who haven’t, we urge you to do so as it becomes time consuming to contacteveryone.
A portion of the three cedar trees on the Spinnaker septic field will be cut in early November. Please contact Ian Cocker at 250 222 0143 if interested in some of the firewood.
A tip for maintaining septic tanks in good working condition. Once a year, flush raw chopped up liver down a toilet. The liver promotes the action of bacteria found in septic tanks.
Source approval for well 19 was received on May 27. The Island Health engineering department requested additional information regarding the VPID Treatment Plant system. We are waiting for their review to be completed. The total cost for well 19 to date is $38,640.
The Water Conservation and Metering Committee (WaCom) has completed its work and asks that residents review the full report and survey results on the VPID website. Frequently asked questions provide a great start to the consideration of this summer’s projected use, and whether meters are necessary. see the FAQ’s here: https://vpid.ca/frequently-asked-questions/
We’re currently trying to hold to a target of a 15% decrease in water use over the year. December 31st records will tell if that worked. Your conservation efforts are appreciated. Generally, June was a good month, but peaks of up to 19 thousand gallons occurred on two separate days. This approaches the capacity of our wells. We can’t have that happening too frequently without losing reserves, resulting in the same kind of graphing as in 2018 and 2020, when we had to import water. View the graph here: https://vpid.ca/water-storage-level-2/
Surprisingly, those who maintain their own onsite storage collectively manage an almost equivalent amount of storage as at the plant, about 88 thousand gallons. That has increased over the 3 years that we have tracked home storage. Thanks to all 30 of you, for taking the initiative. Hats off especially to Don Barthel for his rainwater harvest of 12 thousand gallons!
Water storage level
Water storage levels have dropped significantly over the month of June to a low of 51%. This is not an acceptable situation to be in at the start of summer. We experienced a large volume of water outflow during the middle of several nights that does not appear to be related to a leak. A reminder to all residents to ensure water hoses are not left unattended and taps are closed when not needed.
We are pleased to welcome Rob Noyes to VPID. In order to provide a trained backup for Ian and Phil, Rob began his training in May. Rob brings experience and a skill set developed from years at the Home Hardware and has his EOCP certification for small water systems
Well 19 is progressing. Pump, wiring and piping have been installed in the well. Wiring and piping have been placed and covered in a ditch leading to the container in the Tank Farm. Plumbing and electrical components are attached to the container wall. Plumbing leading to the Treatment Plant is now in place. Information for the source approval is being accumulated and will be sent to the Environmental Health Officer by May 1st, 2021. Initial chemistry and bacteria tests are all good. The expectation is that the well will be on-line by the end of May.
Spring Landowner Forum
The second VPID Landowner Forum is scheduled for Saturday, May 8th, 2021 at 11:00 am. You are required to register in advance for this meeting. Click here. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. While registering you’ll be able to suggest topics for discussion.
Water Conservation and Metering Committee
The parameters of the former Metering Committee have changed, and the new name is the Water Conservation and Metering Committee (WaCoM for short), which has expanded to include one more member. A summary of the questions asked from the survey (FAQ) along with answers are now available on this web site at https://vpid.ca/frequently-asked-questions/
The Islands Trust is holding town hall meetings to discuss the possibility of allowing secondary housing on all properties. The VPID Board of Trustees is opposed to the concept due to concerns with water shortages and the need to be able to meet the needs of the existing 237 houses and potential future building on 38 empty properties within VPID. A letter to the Islands Trust has been sent voicing concerns and opposition to the concept.
Household Water Warning
A warning that residents may inadvertently be subjected to causing bad water to enter their houses: a charged hose left in the sun has the ability to cause sufficient pressure to force water from the hose to enter the house, resulting in bad tasting water.
VPID landowners raised a number of questions about water usage and management in response to our 2021 water meter survey. The Water Conservation and Metering Committee has summarized a selection of them in a new FAQ page, which is also found under the New Homeowners menu entry. Hopefully we’ll add some more FAQs in the upcoming months.
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:
Recommendation 1. 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.
Recommendation 2. 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.
Recommendation 3. 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!
If you are interested in numbers, lots of numbers, read our water report for the year 2020.
In short, over the calendar year, we collected and treated 5.7 million US gallons of water, used a tiny fraction for various purposes, lost some due to leaks (27,000 gallons), and distributed to our homeowners 5.6 million US gallons.
In 2020, the average household consumption in the Village Point Improvement District was 65 US gallons per day per household (that is, 245 liters per day). 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 has set up 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 would like to harvest opinions and suggestions from our 237 homeowners through a survey. This is not a vote.
(This survey is now closed).
You may see a summary of the results here. Or read a longer report here.