Despite the population of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, continuing to grow, city officials say the introduction of water meters is significantly reducing local water consumption.
Charlottetown’s annual consumption was at one of its highest points when it soared to 7.2 million cubic metres in 2008 under a flat-rate billing system. Yet, even as the population climbs towards 40,000, residents used one million less cubic metres of water when measured in 2019, following a settling-in period of the meter program.
Municipal officials say the water metering program has almost been the equivalent of bringing in another wellfield to expand water capacity, and combined with new summer watering restrictions, has more than flattened the water demand curve, reducing consumption by 13% through all water conservation measures.
“The Water and Sewer Utility has done an excellent job in educating residents, as well as offering incentive programs to reduce water consumption,” said Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown in an announcement. “The metering program puts control into the hands of the residents as they manage their own usage, which in many cases has resulted in decreased annual consumption,” he added.
The city began rolling out a mandatory water meter program in 2015 (following approval in 2013) under the banner of “Take Control”. It had the initial target of having meters installed in all homes by the end of 2019. The concept was that people would think twice before turning on the tap and ease the longstanding burden around water levels in the Winter River, the city’s main water source.
The city also added its “Water Saver Champions” incentives so that residents could save up to $75 by recruiting a limit of three people to the metered system. Its $200 meter installation cost was also covered by the city, who contracted the meter program to Bevan Bros. Plumbing and Heating at a cost of $1.2 million.
According to residents who have posted in online forums about their water bills, some have seen their bills drop by more than 20%.
The city is currently charging an extra fee to the remaining 200 customers who don’t yet have a water meter. These customers are currently charged a $50 per quarter surcharge as an incentive to get metered. To further encourage these customers to get metered, the non-metered surcharge will increase to $100 per quarter, beginning October 1, 2020.
“After October 1, customers who are still not metered will end up paying almost three times more on the consumption portion of their bill than the average metered customer,” city officials said in an announcement.
Charlottetown’s water is extracted from 13 wells in three wellfields. In 2018, the utility completed the Miltonvale Wellfield. The utility has four water pumping stations that consist of 18 submersible pumps. Some of the water infrastructure that was installed in 1888 is still in existence.