Before Black Diamond Town Council are some amendments to Bylaw 18-01, the Water and Sewer Bylaw.
The most significant change is to Schedule A sewer rates, and they are going up or down depending on your situation. Should Council pass this amendment, the rates would be in effect starting January 1, 2019.
Let me explain using my own utility bill.
Currently, everyone with a water meter pays an $86 flat fee for sewer charge. The change would be a new flat fee of $43 per billing cycle (every 2 months) for buildings with a 15mm (5/8″) and 20mm (3/4″) meter. It’s mainly residential buildings that have those meter sizes. Those customers would also begin paying $2.35 per m³ (cubic meter) for sewer use based on water consumption. So charged for 100% in and 100% out.
My family uses about 20 m³ of water per billing cycle. Last bill I paid was $207.91, all in.
I did the math and if you use 18.29m³ you will pay the same as before. If you use less, under the proposed amendment you will save money. My sister, who uses between 5m³ to 7m³ per billing cycle stands to save under this proposed rate plan.
In my opinion, the silver lining in the rate increase is this could encourage residents to use less water and in turn less sewer. If the thought of paying twice to water your lawn doesn’t sit right with you, there are easy rainwater catchment systems you can install. Then you wouldn’t be paying for water or sewer for your garden at all.
Commercial users will be paying more. Those with 15mm (5/8″), 20mm (3/4″) and 25mm (1″) meters would pay $43 flat fee. For buildings with a meter size of 40mm (1.5″) and 50mm (2″), these being the more common commercial meters so I’m told, the rate is going from $86 to $215 per billing cycle. Up $129 every two months. There is also a section in the bylaw that allowed for 36.37 m³ of sewer use before customers are charged $2.35/m³. This allowance is removed under the amended bylaw. Users would pay 100% of use in and out. There are larger rate increases for commercial buildings with meters of 75mm (3″) to 150mm (6″) but I’m told there are very few 3″ and 4″ meters and no 5″ or 6″ meters in use.
Multi-family is where it was explained to Council that the current bylaw is most unequal in terms of billing for use. Right now, residential buildings all pay $86 for a sewer hook-up regardless of how many units are within the building. So a single family dwelling pays the same as a 20 unit condominium. Under the bylaw amendment, this would change based on meter size; 15mm (5/8″) and 20mm (3/4″) meters would pay $43, 25mm (1″) would pay a $107.50 flat fee, 40mm (1.5″) would be charged $215 and 50mm (2″) would owe $344 per billing cycle. This is going off the assumption that the larger the meter, the more units are being fed water and the more capacity for water and sewer use. As with commercial and residential, the charge for m³ of sewer use will be $2.35m³ based on water consumption with no allowance of 36.37m³.
Why the change you ask?
- Residential users, specifically residential customers who use less than the average of 22 m³ per billing cycle, are subsidizing the higher users. This new rate plan will alleviate that.
- Both the water and sewer rates had not seen a change since 2015. Council was advised, based on inflation and increasing costs of operations in general, this is unsustainable. They just have to go up.
- So the theory goes, buildings with a larger water meter could conceivably use more water. There is a clause in Schedule B in the bylaw that allows for a change out of meters and downsizing. The fee is $600. Commercial users would recoup that cost in 4.6 months.
The only other thing that is changing is Section 2 of Schedule B. This stipulates bills are due on the 15th of the month and late payment is now subject to 5% of the amount outstanding.
The bylaw is still in draft stages and I urge residents and utility users to read it and comment under the Town of Black Diamond’s public consultation policy.