While Metro Vancouver advocates for municipalities to meter water and called upon cities in 2011 to ” reassess the merits of developing residential water metering programs and municipal rebate programs for water efficient fixtures and appliances. 2015″, Burnaby has opposed the idea and only partially meters its water system. In Metro Vancouver, water usage is fully metered only in West Vancouver and Langley. For premises that are metered in Burnaby, the rate is $1.60 per cubic metre, with a minimum monthly charge of $50.21
In 2011, a City spokesperson said it would cost in excess of $10 million to install meters in 70,000 multifamily and single-family homes in Burnaby and more to read the meters, bill residents and maintain the infrastructure. This would have been a good expenditure of money given the ever declining snow packs and the fact that cities like Langley and Kelowna have found the political will to do it.
Metering would also provide much needed up to date information on consumption patterns of residents. A 2002 study by the city of Toronto showed that multi family residences consume significantly less water per capita than single detached homes. Multi-residential residents used 191 litres per capita per day versus 320 L/c/d for single family residents. Although Burnaby’s flat rate system does recognize the 60 percent difference in usage between the two lifestyles, It does not address the fact that some residents use more than their fair share. The flat rate the City charges is about three-quarters of what an average family of four would pay under a metered system.
The reduced consumption rate for a family of four living in a multi-residential setting on average would spend $37.18 per month for metered water under Burnaby’s rates while the same family in a detached single family residence would consume $62.30. With a minimum rate of $50.21 per month, multi-residential residents would subsidize SFH to the tune of $13 a month.
To my knowledge, residential water use in one and two family dwellings in Burnaby is not metered and property owners are charged a flat annual rate for water use.
Better Data on Vacancies
In addition, metering could potentially give the City additional information on home vacancy rates. In Melbourne, Australia, water-use records have shown that some 64,000 housing units were empty, accounting for the so-called “ghost towers” in the Docklands district where 17 per cent of properties weren’t being lived in. The media focuses on Vancouver when it comes to empty homes; meanwhile, Burnaby, which has a similar problem, chooses to remain in the dark.