water

Watering restrictions: Are they too restrictive?

I received the following question/complaint from a West Bench resident regarding watering restrictions:

[..] we have a manual system and sometimes on our watering day / evening we actually aren’t home to turn the system on.  So for us to have the same number of hours on a manual system that the automatics have just isn’t a level playing field – it would be nice to have extra time to account for our human inefficiency.   In the past, we had something like 5 pm to midnight or something and that was adequate, but only 3 hours of prescribed watering in the evening every other day means we’ll be slaves to that schedule, we’ll be outside the regulations,  or our yard goes down the tube [...]

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West Bench Water: Where does the money go?

There have been some massive changes in the West Bench water system over the last few years:

  1. The West Bench Irrigation District (WBID) disbanded after two generations of managing water on the West Bench.
  2. The RDOS entered into an agreement with the City of Penticton to buy treated water instead of pulling water directly from the lake,
  3. The RDOS has taken over billing, instituted a parcel tax for capital improvements (the new supply and distribution system) and added water meters.

To help make some sense of this, I have included below an analysis of revenues and expenditures for the West Bench water system under the RDOS.  Revenues are shown as positive numbers and expenses are shown as negative numbers.  The two do not match (revenues do not equal expenditures) because I have suppressed several types of financial transactions: 

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West Bench water meters

I have been asked several times about the rationale for "mock water bills".  The simple answer is that the RDOS needs to collect some baseline data on water usage on the West Bench before it rolls out a meter-based billing system.  Development of a metered pricing scheme is more complicated than many people seem to appreciate (more on this below).  A secondary reason is to give our Public Works Department time to debug the system.  There may be leaks in the new pipes; the water meters might not be working properly.  A phased implementation allows RDOS staff to fix these problems before sending out completely off-the-wall water bills.

A metered pricing scheme

Some West Bench residents support a fully metered scheme. For this we would take the total operating cost of the West Bench Water System (approximately $350K/year), divide it by total water usage (say 500 m3) and charge all West Bench residents $0.70 per m3 of water.

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More on the economics of commutation: Three models

I got some questions last week from members of the Area F Parks Commission about the commutation option for the West Bench water system.  I appreciate that not everyone spends a lot of time doing discounted cash flow calculations so I have provided a simplified spreadsheet model (see the link below).  We identified three options:

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The commutation option

I have received some questions recently about the two letters that went out to ratepayers on the new West Bench water system last week.  The first letter contained information about the option to commute payments for the capital costs of the West Bench water system upgrade.  The second letter was a mock water bill, giving people some preliminary information about their water usage relative to other West Bench properties.

Commutation letter (template)

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Information meeting for Meadow Valley subdivision

NOTICE OF INFORMATION MEETING There will be a public information session on Friday, September 26 regarding a proposed subdivision along Fish Lake Road (north of Faulder).  I am sorry this is on a Friday night, but timelines are tight and compromises were made.

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Resident urges audit of West Bench water bills

A property owner on the West Bench is calling for an audit of the community’s water billing practices to determine how many ratepayers are receiving special discounts.

Ronald Johnson said he discovered three years ago that some West Bench residents have  exemptions to avoid paying the per-acre water charge on non-irrigable parts of their properties, like gullies.

In one case, he discovered a landowner was being billed for just two of 28 acres, and based on his inquiries believes up to 10 such exemptions have been granted since 1996.

West Bench pump house & path ribbon cutting

Thanks to all of you who attended the ribbon cutting for the West Bench pump house today. A couple of people have asked me about the numbers in my remarks, so I have posted my script (which I mostly followed) below:

This water project can be summarized with two numbers: 6 and 18 million.

Six different governments had to work together to get this job done.  That’s 7 if you count Interior Health as its own level of government. 8 if you count Fortis**.

Obviously, the RDOS and the City of Penticton are heavily invested in an ongoing partnership.  However, this partnership is laid on a foundation created by the West Bench Irrigation District.  Building the project required a continuous give and take between various provincial ministries and the PIB.

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