British Columbia on pace to reduce water consumption 33 per cent by 2020

Water use is declining

Total water use — including residential, industrial and agricultural consumers — is down 18 per cent since 2009, from an average of 606 litres per person per day to 494, according to research led by Jordi Honey-Rosés, a professor in the School of Community and Regional Planning at the University of B.C.

Jordi Honey-Rosés_UBC SCARP_120pResidential water use is down only 12 per cent, according to survey data covering about 66 per cent of B.C. residents.

“The good news is that water use is declining,” said Honey-Rosés. “The jury is still out on whether that decrease is due to policy changes such as water metering or other factors such as urban densification, where we are packing in more people who don’t have any outdoor water use.”

Water meters are an essential tool for wise water management, allowing governments to charge consumers based on use, evaluate the impact of policy, and identify leaks, he said. But it’s not clear that meters lead to lower consumption at the prices charged to consumers in B.C.

About one-third of B.C. single-family homes have metered water, half the Canadian average of 72 per cent. Fewer than one in five multi-family dwellings are metered in B.C.

But the data from all 44 municipalities in the survey found there is little difference in water consumption between metered and unmetered homes, and little difference in price. Metered users would pay on average $418 per year for typical household consumption, while homes charged a flat rate for water pay $381.

In countries where universal metering and water pricing have been effective at curbing consumption, residents may pay several times the amount typically charged to British Columbians.

However, when consumers are offered the incentive of a lower water bill through metering — such as the voluntary metering program operated by the City of Surrey — consumption in single-family homes drops 30 to 40 per cent.