Vernon a Pioneer in Performance Measurement

Vernon was one of the first cities in Western Canada to implement a comprehensive water-use efficiency program, including universal metering and conservation retrofits, a volume-based rate structure, toilet replacement rebates, and public education.


Vernon had several compelling reasons to reduce water use. High domestic consumption was driving up operating costs and increasing pressure on infrastructure. But more importantly, Vernon’s entire wastewater flow is treated and used to irrigate agricultural, forestry, and recreational lands. If wastewater flows continued to increase, the City would need to either make a significant investment in additional land and processing equipment, or begin discharging treated wastewater into Okanagan Lake.

Program Delivery and Results

In 1982, Vernon enacted a bylaw requiring water meters in all news homes. In 1991, Vernon began to track water use in the 800 homes built since the bylaw was adopted. Meters were installed in the remaining 4,200 homes in 1992. While flat rate billing continued, water bills displayed what would be charged under an increased block rate structure, which was implemented in 1994 (it has since been changed to a base charge plus a uniform rate for consumption). In conjunction with meter installations, homes were retrofitted with conservation devices such as toilet tank water savers, low-flow showerheads, and low-flow bathroom and kitchen faucet aerators; and an extensive public education campaign was launched.

In 1998, the City enacted a bylaw requiring ultra low-flow (6 litre) toilets in all new construction and renovations, and initiated a pilot project in which the City shared with 100 homeowners the cost of replacing their existing toilets with ultra low-flow models. In 2000, the City introduced an ongoing replacement rebate offer of $75 per toilet ($50 for more than one toilet per residence); so far, about 4,000 toilets have been replaced.

To measure the success of Vernon’s efforts, the average water use of all 5,000 metered homes was compared to the baseline water use of the 800 homes that were metered prior to the introduction of universal metering in 1992 (changes in precipitation were also factored into the analysis). Over a period of ten years, residential water consumption dropped by 35 percent (of which 25 percent can be attributed to metering and rate changes, and 10 percent to the use of ultra low-flow toilets), and wastewater was reduced by 5 percent.

Initial Program Costs

  • Meter installation $900,000
  • Conservation device installation $100,000

Ongoing Program Costs

  • Public education (per year) $ 15,000
  • Toilet rebates (to date) $250,000

For more information contact Greater Vernon Water at 250-542-8410.