August 08, 2015 - 2:30 PM
VERNON - The regional district is cracking down on water thieves.
It’s come to the North Okanagan Regional District’s attention a number of people on the Greater Vernon Water system are bypassing water meters.
The water utility keeps track of how much water goes into the system, and how much is used by consumers, and water quality manager Renee Clark says there’s been a noticeable volume of unaccounted for water.
“Most water utilities will have some unaccounted for water due to leaks, firefighting use, public works – hydrant maintenance and water main flushing for water quality, water sampling and instrumentations,” Clark says. “(We’ve) gone through the exercise to account for where all the water is being used and we found there was still a gap.”
Between tips from the public and investigation, the regional district discovered about two dozen customers have pipes installed which allow them to irrigate without the water being recorded by a meter.
“If they are not paying for the water, they are stealing it,” Clark says.
And while this type of thing has likely been going on for some time, the regional district now has new policies in place to enforce the rules.
Finance manager Stephen Banmen says some of the bypasses — located on residential properties and hobby farms — are historic, having been installed before the meters went in, but notes others are believed to be intentional.
“In the past our main tool was to shut the water off on the property line which is fairly dramatic,” Banmen says. “What we’ve done in the past year or two is work to make sure we have other tools available to deal with enforcement.”
The regional district is sending letters to the properties in question, advising them of their options. The first is to install and pay for a meter pit, which would cost them about $1,000. If they refuse to do so, the regional district will impose a costly fee for unmetered water, which starts at $300 a quarter, and continues to rise substantially each quarter after that.
“It’s a fairly punitive rate,” Banmen says. “There’s a huge incentive to becoming metered.”
The regional district also has the ability to ticket people if they don’t comply, but that isn’t being considered yet.
In addition to the roughly two dozen properties receiving letters, Banmen says a number of others are currently under investigation.
“It’s a service paid for by everybody and we want to ensure there’s equity and fairness for all of our customers,” Banmen says.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015