Water Meters Ahead?

Mayor Rowan wants water metering throughout Kapiti Coast

By Alan Tristram
March 8, 2011

In a controversial move, Kapiti’s Mayor Jenny Rowan has come out firmly in favour of ‘universal’ water metering.

And the Kapiti Coast District Council says it’s including water meters in its draft Annual Plan ‘to give more certainty that water consumption and leak reduction targets will be met.’

Mayor Rowan says:“The installation of water meters will provide detailed information about what is being consumed and where, and what is being lost.”

“There are clear fairness reasons as well to support universal water meters,” she says.

Many elderly are ‘low water users’

“At present low water users are subsidising large water users. Many of these low water users are elderly on fixed incomes,” says the Mayor.

“The current annual fixed charge masks the true cost of water to individual households. Under a metered system, the cost will be transparent.”

Council’s ‘separate but related streams’

She says the Council has a significant Water Supply Project underway that has two separate but related streams.

“One is to provide a long-term secure water supply to Waikanae, Paraparaumu and Raumati residents,” Mayor Rowan says.

“The other involves a number of conservation and educational initiatives aimed at reducing peak consumption to 400 litres per person a day.

“The level of capital investment involved in the first stream is based on the assumption that we can reduce peak consumption to 400 litres per person a day.

Peak consumption way over target

“Peak consumption, however, is running at up to 560 litres a day and in some areas, more than 700 litres.”

She says the Council has several  innovative schemes underway aimed at reducing consumption.

One is Plan Change 75 that requires all new dwellings to have rain water tanks or diversion systems, she says.

And it is about to introduce an interest-free loan scheme to fund rain water tanks for existing homes.

“However, during preparation of the Draft Annual Plan, it has become clear there are considerable advantages in extending the coverage of water meters district-wide,” says Ms Rowan.

“At present staff estimate 5,200 tonnes of water a day is being lost from the network. That is a phenomenal figure.

“Leak detection suggests the biggest loss is on private property. One leak found recently totalled 30,000 litres a day.

“At present, householders have no control over their bills and no ability to reduce them. Meters will also give Council more certainty about outcomes.”

Corporate Business Committee chair, Councillor Ross Church, says there are two major concerns with water meters – privatisation and cost.

“Under the Local Government Act, Council cannot sell its water assets to a private company.

But, he says: “It can transfer the management, delivery and operations of its water assets to another local government entity, it can contract out all or part of a water service operation for up to 35 years, or it can set up a public/private joint arrangement while still retaining control over pricing and policy.

“Councillors, like many Kapiti residents, are very sensitive about this issue. Given this, we will be considering a change to our Standing Orders to require a 75% vote before any changes to the operations, management and not-for-profit nature of our water supply systems are possible in the future.

“We want to lift the bar as high as possible to protect our water interests.”

The cost of water to individual households is another major issue, says Cr Church.

“We are mindful there are considerable issues around charging under water meters – how the pricing regime will impact on the elderly, families, people with large gardens,” he says.

“Given this, we are keen to set up a separate Charging Regime Advisory Group to look into different charging regimes.

“The former head of the State Services Commission and current head of the Water Supply Technical Advisory Group Don Hunn has already agreed to chair such a body, which is fantastic.”

Councillor Church said there would be plenty of opportunities for residents to debate the issue of water meters.

“The decision to introduce water meters triggers our Policy of Significance. This means there will be specific consultation on this one particular policy change. We see this running parallel and at the same time as consultation on the Draft Annual Plan.”

Councillor Church said the installation of district-wide meters was expected to result in a 25% reduction in peak residential water usage.

This would enable Council to defer some parts of the Water Supply Project. The $10 million saved would fund the cost of installing meters, estimated at $8 million.

 

Here we go again, we are getting the spin of 400 litres per person per day but that is just the usual half truth as I remember seeing a grading which reduces the 400 litres across the family usage. I regret that I do not have a copy of the reducing amounts but am sure that it has been closeted away somewhere by council in the hope that it will be overlooked and then brought out after water meters have been sanctioned, heaven forbid.
Then there is the cost of renewing them I understood some eight years ago that the individual life was only 10 years, so do we have to endure such an ongoing expense at ever escalating costs? The original cost put forward at council was estimated at $10 million so I am sure after all these years at the rate of today’s inflation it certainly is not going to get any cheaper!
For goodness sake councillors/mayor get real this country is currently in a catastrophic economic state of decline as there is certainly no need for this additional expense on ratepayers.
How about you start to get to grips with the ongoing cost of feeding pallets to the “lemon” and also for the proposed aquatic centre for heating and the ever spiraling transport cost and storage? You seem to be keeping that quite!

Prior to the previous local body elections, prospective candidates were invited to a public meeting to discuss the need for water meters. The public, including myself, let them know in no uncertain terms that water meters were not wanted because of the fear of privatisation as has happened in other countries.
Jenny Rowan, the mayoral candidate sensed the mood of the meeting and indicated some sympathy for the views of those present.
So to be absolutely sure I asked her twice that, if elected, would she hold a public referendum prior to any decision to introduce water meters. She answered “yes” both times.
I now read that Mayor Jenny Rowan has come out firmly in favor of ‘universal’ water metering.
What about the referendum she promised prior to being elected?

Has the $8 million figure been updated from when it was first given – quite some years ago now? Or is the council saying the cost has fallen somewhat?

And from where does councillor Church get the figure of 25% expected reduction in water use? Is this a guesstimate, wishful thinking or based on something? International and local statistics I’ve seen show very limited, if any, reductions from installation of meters and user pays systems.

From what I have read today, ongoing costs of water metering have not been given, so financially the scheme looks good, but future cost comparisons may well alter the benefits. Would be nice to get that information.
It all reminds me of Kaftka’s “The Trial”. Those who govern just go on relentlessly, paying lip service to the democratic processes and in the long run doing as they want. Will this also mean another lot of council employees to monitor the meters?
Water metering is a sign that too many people are vying for water supplies so that is another solution – less growth, less population. Our local prophet Robert Atack has been saying for many years that we have too many people on the planet, and here in Kapiti the trend is the same. Its the overall trend, growth and attendant problems we will face in the future that we should be looking at.

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