Water Meters to be an Election Issue here in Cornwall Ontario? January 18, 2010

Water meters for Cornwall Ontario.   Hmm….Nope.   I don’t want one.  I don’t know too many people that do and I certainly don’t think too many think that they will save a whole lot of money.

Ontario is going through a similar issue with these new “SMART METERS” for electricity.   A politician stated this recently.


“..aide to interim Energy Minister Gerry Phillips, responding to a report by Sun Media’s Jonathan Jenkins that most Toronto Hydro customers are seeing their electricity bills increase following the installation of smart meters, noted: “The smart meters are more about creating awareness of energy use, rather than helping people to save money.”

And that’s the reality of the Water Meter program no matter who denies it. We taxpayers have to pay for the implementation of the system, IE the meters, and then we will continue to pay.   Is this really how we want to attract more people to Cornwall?  Do we have any water issues other than the high cost of the new sewage treatment plant?

We now export water to other areas.   Do those homes too have to have water meters?   We’re blessed with water in this area.   We have an amazing city.  We don’t need to mimic everything that bigger cities do.   Do we?

What do you think Cornwall?

Jamie Gilcig – Editor – The Cornwall Free News

(Comments and opinions of Editorials, Letters to the Editor, and comments from readers are purely their own and don’t necessarily reflect those of the owners of the Cornwall Free News, their staff, or sponsors.)

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  1. apples and oranges, not even comparable. The smart meters are rather obvious, they charge more for peek period use. The excuse by Toronto Hydro is nothing but corporate doublespeak. It is a money grab, they were implemented by PRIVATE corporations to increase profit. The last time I checked the city of Cornwall is a public corporation, and thus is responsible to us the taxpayers. If there was a profit they would then be obliged to lower prices, or use the profit to benefit us. There is at least a potential for spending transparency in the city, as opposed to a private corporation.

  2. Author

    Hi Chef Shawn,
    I would politely disagree with you. The quote given in the story pretty much sums up the position in my opinion. The overhead of a meter system is being placed upon we taxpayers purely for monetary reasons. I can tell you from living in Ottawa that you almost have to not use any water to save any actual dollars. And I can also assure you that if there are any savings from conservation locally something would be done to increase costs.

    Maybe not at the onset, but later. Evolution and technology are truly wonderful, but sometimes we get to make a choice. As a voter and resident of Cornwall I say no to Water Meters.

  3. Good points of debate. We pay for our electricity based on usage. We pay for our heating oil, gas or propane based on usage. We pay for our food based on usage. We pay for our beer based on usage. Why should water be treated differently? Paying for water based on usage sounds OK to me. Do we really need to water our lawns all day? In one city in which I lived, there was a rationing system that allowed homeowner to water for only two hours every two days. Even nunbered homes on one day and odd numbered homes on the next. This lead to neighbours reporting on neighbours which is not a good thing.

  4. Even if we do say NO to water meters, as always, the people in charge of telling us how to run our lives (the City Council) and how much we are OBLIGED to pay have come up with yet another revenue grab that I doubt can be prevented. Once these City Councillors (who seem to be pushing only their own agenda, representing themselves and not the public) make up their minds that we WILL have water meters, at least lets try and save some money on the purchase of water meters.
    Last year the Mayor of Montreal fired a couple of guys and cancelled the purchase of water meters (about $355 Million) due to “conflict-of-interest” and I guess that now someone has a load of water meters they’d love to get rid of. I’m sure they would listen to anyone offering a mere pittance for them. ATTENTION CITY COUNCILLORS: LETS SAVE SOME MONEY IF WE CAN!!!

  5. Author

    Ah, but there’s the ticket Joe. “Ration” we have no shortage of water in Cornwall. We even export water. We need to pay for the cost of delivering the water and treating it and we do right now. Do we really need the added cost of water meters? I don’t think so. To me it’s just a veiled money grab and just imitates what bigger cities are doing.

  6. Good point admin. But, perhaps if we had meters we would end up having lower usage and thus reduce the total City costs of delivering and treating the smaller amount of water used. The City needs to look at this before deciding to proceed?

  7. Author

    Hi Joe,

    The city knows it’s basic usage right now year over year. They know their costs year over year. If rationing isn’t an issue do we need the implementation and cost of a meter system to address usage?

    That to me is the question. If we have enough water that we can export it to other communities it sounds like we don’t have a shortage. We can have a pool surtax for users. We can have lawn watering permits as well. There are options for larger residential users other than a water meter system.

  8. Joe, I have been debating the same points, but it is a fruitless endeavor.

    First off, council has not decided whether the meters will be subsidized or not, and if so, how much. Would the counterpoint still remain the same if the meters are free?

    It is an asinine argument to suggest that we have enough so lets not try to conserve. That is the same feeble minded argument the petroleum industry has been using for decades “oh we have plenty, who cares”. Yet, now that we have hit peak oil and are consuming at an alarming rate we have no contingency plan in place to help us conserve or utilize alternative means.

    We need to curb our wasteful society. I see far too many overindulgences in this town, especially with regards to food. Not only do people eat far more than they need to (that’s fine, its their choice to have one foot in the grave) but even more food is wasted or thrown out. Its time we solve this systemic problem. If we can encourage conservation in more areas it will help plant these behavioral patterns in peoples habits, as opposed to mindless consumption.

    Admin is not seeing the entire picture. There are costs other than the water itself. Infrastructure and chemicals cost money. If we can make the system more efficient by lowering consumption then surely our costs will be lower. It’s not at all about an abundance of water. Some of us stand to save more money than others, without question. I would gladly pay for my meter (even though I already volunteered for one) because it is going to cut my water costs by more than half.

    You speak as if the meters are going to be sold to us for a profit? The equipment cost needs to be covered. Surely you can appreciate that these things aren’t free. As I have stated in the past, this is like purchasing a new, and far more efficient furnace. Sure there is a significant overhead, but you end up saving enough money over the following decade or two that it pays for itself and then some.

  9. Author

    Dear Chef Shawn,

    People can disagree without being wrong. My opinion is simply that the cost of servicing Cornwall’s water needs doesn’t necessitate the cost of a water meter system. Of course we have costs other than the water which we leak out large amounts before it even comes out of our taps. It’s similar to electricity in that you don’t actually use Electricity as much as “rent it” as it runs through your lines and back into the grid.

    We the taxpayer would have to pay for a water meter system either directly or through our taxes. It’s that simple. If the goal is environmental I think there are other methods besides water meters as well.

    It’s not a right or wrong issue. It’s about choice, and my choice, as someone that owns a home in Cornwall is to not have water meters. I haven’t suggested any “profit” in water meters. I am simply suggesting that water meters are a cash grab and that we as voters pay for the device of the cash grab as well as the grabbed cash we will have to pay out.

    If I wanted to live the same as those in Kingston or Ottawa do I’d live in those cities. I love some of the flavor and difference that Cornwall offers. I think we can pay for our needs without mimicking those cities. Water meters to me are an anathema. There’s no zing or magic to them.

  10. I believe that the more water that you use, the more you should pay. The only way to make sure that this happens is to have meters. Listen to Joe and Chef Shawn. As someone who doesn’t do much watering of my lawn, I do not want to subsidize someone who waters many hours a day. We do charge usage based fees for many other things we use and why not for water. It just makes so much sense. If you don’t want water meters, then you don’t want electricity meters, you want everyone to get as much gas for their cars as they want but pay a standard annual fee. People should pay for what they use. If I use less then I should pay less, if I use more, then I should pay more. it all seems like common sense to me. Get with the program.

  11. Why pay for something we don’t need? Theres no water shortage in Cornwall.

  12. that’s the mentality that must change.

  13. The water bill system in Cornwall is an attempt at “pay-by-usage”. It’s a poor man’s version of that – the more water outlets you have, the higher your bill. The guy with 3 bathrooms pays more than the guy with 2 bathrooms. But – where it fails, is that it doesn’t matter if the guy with 2 bathrooms washes off his driveway every day, waters his lawn when it rains, and takes two 30 minute showers every day – the guy with 3 bathrooms pays more. And that doesn’t seem fair.

    We’re fortunate to have an abundance of water in Cornwall, but that’s not the issue. The issue is that it costs an amazing amount of money to treat that water, distribute the water and maintain the infrastructure. How do we decide who pays for that?

    Metering will be a truer representation of pay-for-use; but is there any real savings? Where’s the cost-benefit analysis that says installing 20,000 meters plus maintaining them plus reading them plus installing a new billing system will net the city more money than the current process.
    What’s the social benefit to metering? All of a sudden the family of 6, struggling to make ends meet and living with one bathroom, is going to be paying more money to bathe than they are right now.
    Let’s call a spade a spade. Water, as much as it should be a human right, is also a luxury. Our current taxation system is (supposed to be) set up so that the rich supports the poor. Tie the water bill into property tax. The $200,000 home pays more for water than the $100,000 home. That’s how road repairs; garbage collection; snow removal; policing and fire protection are done.

    That doesn’t make me feel any better when my neighbour waters his lawn 24×7, but I’ll take that over downloading a mega-million dollar metering program on me.

  14. Author

    Well said Guy!

  15. To Guy – Your arguments are well stated but you dicuss the extremes rather than the averages. Take your poor family of six. The poor family of 6 who use more water would pay more than the poor family who use less water, This sounds fair to me. A richer family of 6 who use more water would pay more than a rich family of 6 who use less water. This sounds fair to me. BUT you could end up having a poor family of 6 who use less water paying the same or more than a richer family of 6 who have a beautiful watered lawn, a beautiful well used pool, a water feature in the garden, who wash their multiple cars, etc. This does not sound fair to me. The more actual water that you use , the more you should pay. A metering system is the only honest way to do this. The more electricity you use the more you pay. The more you call long didtance, the more you pay. The more you drive, the more you pay for gas. WHY do you want to make an exception for water. THIS DOES NOT MAKE SENSE TO ME.

  16. Author

    Actually Richard, your and Guy’s posts give some pause for thought. The water to me isn’t the cost. As others have stated it’s the “overhead” that really costs the money; sewage, infrastructure. A good chunk of water never even makes it out of our taps as underground pipes leak large amounts of water coming and going.

    If you have a family of six living in a small house or apartment with only one bathroom and no yard they could use quite a bit more water than a retired couple living in a house in Riverdale.

    That family of six might not even be able to pay for the “water” they use. What about people on disability or Ontario Works? Where are those dollars supposed to come from? Aren’t we unfairly punishing those that can least afford it?

    Our biggest costs are not the water that comes out of the pipe, but the cost of putting those pipes in and servicing those houses.

    While water meters may not be right or wrong; I still don’t think they’re a good solution to covering the use of our public water systems. Maybe a much better concept would be somehow including water fees in the municipal tax bill. Right now at our home in Cornwall we get our tax bill and then our water bill. As two adults(occasionally 3) living in a large house we don’t use that much water compared to a big family in an apartment yet when it comes to all the other things the city taxes people for we pay more than our fair share per capita.

    Something to mull over…..

  17. To admin. You say you pay more than your fair share? Shouldn’t your fair share be based purely on how much water than you use. Use more, pay more. Use less, pay less. That would seem to be your fair share.

  18. Author

    But dear Richard, is it the water that costs or the delivery of the water that costs? Is this really a usage issue financially speaking? I agree that conservation is a huge subject; especially in this day and age, but is it for this area? Is the huge cost of implementing meters about cost savings at any level truly?

  19. Ok, maybe there is a more balanced approach that make us all happy. In many places, there is a water scheme that has two layers. There is a minimum fee for water access. This pays for much of the basic infrastructure related to clean water access. After a homeowner has used up a certain amount of water, any further use is based on how much additional water is used. This approach is great since it makes everybody pay a part of the delivery costs plus it helps lower usage by charging more to high users. A fairer balance. I do thank you for encouraging discussion on this issue.

  20. Only new housing should have to put in a water meter. All people presently connected would stay as they are. Does that sound logical?

  21. lets put some perspective on it. We have to discuss the “poor”.
    How many “poor” people do you know that pay water taxes? Generally you have to be a property owner, and if you are poor you generally will not own your house, which bank would give credit to someone without the means to repay the debt? Further to this, water is the least of the worries for someone who has fallen on hard times and is a homeowner. They likely have to sell their property.

    For the most part, apartments and rental units have the water built into the price. Now, true, some will have to pay utilities, but they will not be responsible for the cost of purchasing the water meters, the land owners will.

    A little more perspective is needed as well. A cubic meter of water is 1,000L of water. If you are paying $1.25- $1.50/ 1000L that sounds pretty reasonable to me. That is 166 toilet flushes for a 6lpf toilet.
    Having moved here from one of the most expensive municipalities to live in (Waterloo Region), I was dumbfounded to find my taxes and expenses to be far higher here. My annual water bill here is $800, as opposed to $325 in KW, and that was in a house with 5 people, 2 washing machines, 2 bathrooms, 2 kitchens. Something does not seem right.

    Somehow I don’t see a “poor” family of 6 breaking the bank, unless they are extremely wasteful and extravagant with their water usage.

    I am tired of these perspective-less opinions that are not conducive or relevant to the debate. It is reminiscent of the drivel spouted off by some of the cable news broadcasters to the south. If you say your opinion loud enough, enough times then who cares if you don’t back it up with facts.

  22. No argument here but I have to tell you that I’m from South Stormont and a few years ago we had the meters installed and I was not happy.Worried more than anything because of the nightmare of a bill I was going to receive.I have low flush Toilets ,no pool and no rink .I water mfront lawn but only in desperate times where there is drought. Two teens that take long showers…I have saved over 100$ a year since we have one …but the problem now is that our township is going to start raising the usage per cubic meter price …oh well i’m not happy again but i do save in the long run…Cornwall does not have issues with water supply but it stills costs alot of money to water your lawn

  23. Author

    Hi Richard,

    To me it’s about being fiscally pragmatic for our area and my own personal preference. To me I don’t want to pay for the infrastructure of something unless it’s totally necessary and productive.

    As per Chef Shawn’s comment about the property owner paying the taxes he’s quite correct; but then what does a landlord do if he has water hog tenants or a complex that abuses it? What about people that start “stealing” water. I saw personally Ottawa folks tapping their garden hoses into their neighbors homes.

    At the very least it’s been some interesting dialog about about an interesting election issue…..

  24. easy, add a clause to the rental agreement. You are allowed up to X cubic meters, beyond this you pay a usage fee. I have had that in all rental agreements when I was in university. It encourages frugality, especially for those that do not have the means.

    As far as neighbours tapping into your water supply that would be easy to figure out if you had that suspicion. First off, “Ottawa folks” are a very “special” breed. Anyhow, keep an eye on your meter, you can tell if even a tap drip is going through the line it is that accurate. It will certainly help diagnose leaks in the house. Keep an eye on your usage and you can determine if it is being used by others. But if your neighbours are using your water then that is the least of your worries. If they are willing to steal your water at your cost then what else would they do?

    Seems to me that there would be few in this community that would do such a thing. Especially because there are eyes everywhere, always looking. It’s certainly not a “mind your own business” mentality here.

    You are just reaching for extremes of the spectrum to justify your argument instead of looking at facts. Fear mongering can and does influence the weak minded, but does not strengthen ones point.

  25. So where does the water amount show on your bill? Will you pay each 2 months seperatly from your tax bill? Will the annual tax amount then decrease? Probably not as they will use that money for a pet project or ?????

  26. So, I just received my latest water bill yesterday. It is $400.85. We are paying 5x our actual consumption. No wonder people leave their sprinklers on all day, some of us are certainly paying more than our share for it….

  27. Author

    Hi Chef Shawn,

    We just received ours too. I still see our bills getting higher, not lower as we’re going to have to pay for the implementation of meters regardless of how they bill us. Another issue that we’re starting to hear is the potential of health issues from those that over zealously try to save water as is the case in Ottawa and some other large cities.

    Water should be run for a few minutes before consumption. When it sits in pipes higher concentrates of certain chemicals, metals, and bacteria can accumulate. In cities like Montreal for example more water is lost enroute to many homes than they actually consume due to aging and cracked water pipes underground.

    There are solutions and those that use more than their “fair share” should pay more, but this is just a cash grab.

  28. You can still get free water meters! Contact the city. Water metering is inevitable, so why not save as much money as you can.

  29. Author

    Shawn the meters aren’t really free. If the user doesn’t pay directly then we all pay in our tax bills, no?

  30. they are coming either way. Do you want to pay a couple dollars in your tax bill for a meter, or do you want to pay for it outright (a couple hundred). Semantics aside, i would recommend people take advantage of the opportunity.

  31. Author

    Chef Shawn semantics aside I agree with your statement above. 🙂

    I do disagree though with the statement of them coming either way. I think they still could be stopped if there was the political will for it.

  32. We have NO RIGHTS in this country. We are TOLD to accept these things – PAY FOR THEM…and then…every time the water is running. You hear this HUGE ticking noise and I do mean it is LOUD…it sounds like a bomb ready to go off. Plus the guys that installed it – made mistakes on their paperwork and said we had lead piping come into the house. So a supervisor had to come out to PROVE they were mistaken. He said that – he had to check NUMEROUS houses for the same error. Our home is 8 years old. NO WAY was there lead. What a waste of time and money and now inconvenience.

  33. There was an advertised program in Cornwall last year for the installation of free smart water meters. I was told I could have one installed for free now or for $250 two years from now. I called and had one installed in fifteen minutes. It shows I have a dripping tap. I haven’t fixed the tap yet.

  34. What happens when every citzen uses less water after the meters are installed.So everyone saves big time.Oh wait a minute, the city will never let that happen.Citzens will never be allowed to lower there water bills one way or another.Future headline “City in direstraits” to many people saving money since water meters installed Usage of water going up two fold this year.

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