Water metering to be implemented in Grand Forks

Water metering will be implemented into Grand Forks’ residential properties as part of the city’s sustainable plans starting sometime in 2013.
The estimated cost to implementing the water meters to residential properties is $1.3 million.
The city originally applied for General Strategic Priorities Fund money to install the water meters in 2011. The grant funding was 100 per cent, which would cover the entire cost of installation, but was denied.
Another opportunity for a funding program through General Strategic Priorities Funds became available this summer. Similarly, it would also cover 100 per cent of the costs;
however, the decision for the funding announcement will not be announced until this December.
“This is something that the various councils have looked at over the past 15 years,” said Lynne Burch, the city’s chief administrative officer. “It’s definitely part of the sustainability plan and it’s part of council’s strategic plan.”
The city had previously discussed the implementation of the universal water metering program throughout the city and in the past decade, the city has already installed meters to all industrial, commercial, institutional and multi-family properties. Single and two family properties are the only remaining sector to complete.
Over the past several years, the city has completed its water conservation plan, the water system audit and demand management plan and the drought management and conservation plan. The results of the studies support the recommendation of implementing a universal water metering program to reduce water consumption.
In 2011, Urban Systems Ltd. also produced a paper titled “Universal Water Meter Program Implementation Framework” that outlined how to acquire a contractor and install residential water meters, cost estimates, and the time frame.
The study also revealed that the reduction in water consumption would result in a decreased volume of sewage requiring treatment. In turn, the reduced sewage generation would allow the city to delay future upgrades to the treatment plant.
Burch noted that this would decrease the treatment costs for both water produced and sewage treated.
“I think this is something that council has talked about for a number of years and eventually it will be implemented,” she said, noting that the sewage system was installed in the 1970s and has not had any big upgrades since that period.
Mayor Brian Taylor added that the city has applied for gas tax dollars over the last couple of years.
“We’re not allowing ourselves to take away from that emphasis by applying for other things because it’s really important to us to get the water metering in place,” he said. “The cost of new wells and water supplies costs way more and we need to recognize we’re big water users and we have to learn to cut back.”
Taylor noted that residents do not like the ineffective rules currently in place for using their gardening hoses at certain times.
“Water metering will make it an equal playing field for everybody,” he added. “In general the community does want this and we’re hoping to do it without spending gas money.”
Once the water meters are installed into residential homes, it has been shown in other communities that it would reduce water consumption by 25 per cent. The project itself could take 15 months to two years to complete.
Though the city has been informed there would be no response until December 2012, in a staff report, city staff has advised that the verdict is worth waiting for.
“Other gas tax monies currently in reserve can be used for other projects should the grant be successful in funding the entire water metering project,” the report stated. “If the grant is not successful, council may determine through the 2013 budgeting process to utilize other gas tax reserve funds, in an effort to implement the water metering program without burdening the ratepayers with additional capital costs.”
This funding is 100 per cent of the total estimated cost for the universal residential water metering program, which means the city would not have to pay for the program, explained Burch.
Taylor added that Plan B is lucid at this point.
“It’s $1.3 million, and it’s a lot of money,” he said. “Although we have borrowed for infrastructure, we haven’t specifically identified for borrowing for water meters. Taking it out of another revenue or possibly the slag fund, isn’t really popular thing for us to consider.”
Currently, the City of Grand Forks pumps water to a reservoir located to the east of the city.
Burch noted that if the grant application is denied, it would be up to city council to decide at that point where the funds will come from.
“It will be in place in 2013, but it all depends on how quickly the budget is adopted and to get the funds in place,” she concluded.

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