Open Letter to Council – Water Meter Bylaw

Today I wrote a letter to council about their proposed water meters bylaw. I don’t take this step lightly, Councillors should know that if someone writes them a letter, they’ve thought long and hard about not writing it first.


 To the Councillors and Mayor of the City of Castlegar

Re: Proposed Water Meter Bylaw

372667038_21f98a12ec_mThe City of Castlegar has disregarded points raised in public forums, petitions and letters and rather than answering these questions and comments in an intelligent manner, (after all, the city is the one who started the conversation by holding a public forum), it appears that residents are left feeling frustrated and ignored as the city plows ahead with it’s decision to implement a water meters bylaw.

I am a Civil Engineer with seven years experience in the design of municipal and land development design and construction, and have worked with some of the leading experts in water management and water metering in Australia. A decision to change the infrastructure funding program and method of billing cannot be taken lightly. The current fixed fee, adjusted annually water funding program, works well in a community of this size, particularly with a readily available water supply. The research conducted by city staff made some serious assumptions about the availability of water, and about the cost of maintaining the infrastructure that is currently within the city.

I read some quotes in the Castlegar News a couple of weeks back that were disturbing:

With the misconception that there is a lot of water and is a resource that some people believe will never run out, Councillor Deb McIntosh says that “As long as there?s a river going through Castlegar, they’re never going to believe that there’s a water shortage.”

“We actually receive less money from it, and I think the meter system will save people some money, and some water,” said Councillor Gordon Turner. “It’s a move we have to make.”

Please consider the following questions:

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Leadership – The Role of Local Government

102525303_f9221bca5b_m Local governments have a massive responsibility, they are elected to provide governance over the day to day lives of their neighbors, peers and co-workers.

Broadly, these responsibilities include:

  • Making decisions and setting directions for promoting the social, cultural, environmental and economic well-being of their community. 
  • making and enforcing rules and laws regarding the needs of the community
  • Providing directly or on behalf of central government; adequate, equitable and appropriate services and facilities for the community
  • ensuring that these services provided are managed efficiently and effectively
  • exercising community leadership
  • representing the community to other levels of government and authorities
  • managing, protecting, developing, restoring, enhancing and conserving the environment
  • accounting for and manage assets for which it is responsible
  • facilitating the involvement of councilors, members of the public, users of facilities and services and council staff in the development, improvement and co-ordination of local government and facilities
  • raising funds for local purposes by way of rates, charges and fees and investments, loans and grants
  • keeping the local community informed about its activities
  • listening to the concerns of the community
  • ensuring that in the exercise of its regulatory functions it acts without bias
  • acting as a responsible employer.

(Adapted from Role of local Government – Local Government NZ website)

These roles and responsibilities are almost exclusive of any actual legally designated roles or authority, however, they form the basis for how all dealings with council should be undertaken.

More after the jump…

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Castlegar Water Meters Update

 The city just doesn’t give up. With much public opposition to the introduction of water meters expressed in previous public forums, you’d think that the council would have thought better than to continue along the water meters proposal route. I’ve written about water meters here and elsewhere before. However, as reported in the Castlegar News, it seems they are going for it…

With an emphasis on the fact that installation of the device is an entirely volunteer act on behalf of the homeowner, councillors proceeded with the process in preparing two new bylaws.

Such that: A. A bylaw to amend the current Water Rates Bylaw for the purpose of requiring all new construction, including residential, to purchase and install a water meter at the owner?s expense. Furthermore, any owner of property undertaking a building modification in excess of $50,000 (residential or commercial) be required to purchase and install a water meter.

B. That a Water Rates Bylaw be prepared for setting the 2008 water rates for residential homes with a meter at the rate of $5 per month plus $.32 per cubic meter, and those homeowners who volunteer for a meter be levied this fee starting January 1, 2008. Note: flat rates to be determined in November/December 2007.

C. That the homeowners who volunteered for the program be given the opportunity to use their meters at an initial fee of $75 per household.

Castlegar News – Education key to helping residents understand water meters



Councillor Russ Hearns is keeping on the fence on the issue, and with comments like this I can understand why…

We actually receive less money from it, and I think the meter system will save people some money, and some water,? said Councillor Gordon Turner. ?It?s a move we have to make.

How is making less money at all a good thing? The water fund has to be self sustaining, wouldn’t you want to be making more money not less! With an aging pipe network, the city is being short sighted on its own needs for maintaining the infrastructure, and this has little to do with how much water people use.

I’d like to know how many people it takes to get a referendum on this matter.

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Locally Safeway?

Safeway Locally Grown.jpgI don’t usually get excited by supermarket flyers, but this headline from Safeway caught my attention.

Could it be that Safeway is taking part in the Eat Local challenge, or the 100 mile Diet?

Well I guess it depends on what you consider local…


  1. relating to or applicable to or concerned with the administration of a city or town or district rather than a larger area; “local taxes”; “local authorities” [ant: national
  2. of or belonging to or characteristic of a particular locality or neighborhood; “local customs”; “local schools”; “the local citizens”; “a local point of view”; “local outbreaks of flu”; “a local bus line” 
  3. affecting only a restricted part or area of the body; “local anesthesia” [ant: general

local. (n.d.). WordNet? 3.0. Retrieved August 10, 2007, from website:

 “Locally Grown” is what I pick down the road at the berry farm, not cucumbers from Manitoba…

Cucumbers.jpg Grown by Canadians.jpg

It’s great that they are using Canadian farmers to supply food for Canadians, but this flyer probably was the same from BC to PEI. Thousands of miles, there are many other words they could have used to describe their products or ways to market these, “Canadian”, “Proudly supporting Canadian farmers”, “Fresh from Canadian Farms”.

Coincidently, lots of the fruit and veg does come from within three hours drive of where we are, not quite the 100 mile challenge, but pretty close.

Click on the following image to see the Kootenay Food Strategy Society’s webpage. Check out their events and local businesses that are participating in the 100 mile challenge.



To find out where the 100 mile radius is for where you live, (North America only), click the map.

Eat Local.jpg

As you can see from our map, the only large city within 100 miles of our house is Kelowna, but we have many growing regions in our radius. Local for us, doesn’t just mean Canadian, it also includes Washington State and Montana. Safeway’s attempt to hop on the green bandwagon has

Could you Eat Local? What percentage of your average meal could be sourced from within 100 miles of your house?

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Kootenay Wildfires

329004107_9be1836491_mUPDATE: Three homes have been evacuated in the village of Slocan City. The fire is within 100m of structures.

Waking up this morning, I was reminded of home, in Australia. The smell of burning trees was in the air, and there was a hazy stillness in the valley. As it turns out the forest fires nearby to Castlegar are running pretty hot. The water bombers and helicopters have been at it from dawn to dusk, (out airport has no night landing capability), but they’ve been in and out all day everyday.

As of Tuesday evening, 17 homes remain on evacuation alert near two fires in the Kootenays, as wildfires in the southeastern region of the province grow.
Thirteen homes are threatened in the Slocan Valley, where the Springer Creek fire is about one kilometre away, and another four homes have been placed on evacuation alert in the rural community of Argenta, on the east shore of Kootenay Lake.

Wildfires in B.C. Interior threaten 17 homes


The Springer Creek fire is running at about 600 hectares in size, and is one of a couple of fires in the area.

Things are a little different from how we fought fires in Australia, it seems that there is less on the ground manpower invested, and more reliance on air support. Remembering back to the Summer 1995 fires in and around Sydney, where convoys of fire trucks were deployed as the dry conditions, lightning and fierce winds whipped up deadly fire storms, I pray for some cooler temperatures, a bit of rain and not too many campers for the long weekend.

Link to Forest Service Update Page.

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Would you rather be a Number?

81594481_9e3c65013b_mSounds like the Canadian Immigration Dept needs to backtrack over some pretty wild requests to people of Sikh heritage.

Sikh groups angry about a controversial government letter requesting name changes for Sikh immigrants have taken their fight to the popular social networking website Facebook.
At least five online groups dedicated to discussing the government letter, which asked people with the common Sikh surnames Singh and Kaur to change their last names before coming to Canada, have been created.

Sikh name-change letter challenged on Facebook

As an immigrant to Canada myself, I can understand the frustration of these people. I didn’t have to change my name to be here, but I did have to wade through quite the bureaucratic mess called immigration.

It’s a good idea for groups to form online to dispute this letter, coordinating this protest, while people are spread across the globe is difficult, social network sites such as facebook should make that easier, and hopefully the government will listen.

I’ve known a few Singh’s, but I didn’t realize how popular the names are…

Singh and Kaur are common names in the Sikh community. In a tradition that began more than 300 years ago, the name Singh is given to every baptized male and Kaur to every baptized female Sikh.

The names are used differently by different people. Some use Singh or Kaur as middle names, while others use them as their last names.

Common Sikh names banned under Canada’s immigration policy

My first thought is, do they want to be mistaken for someone else? My second thought, would they rather be just a number?


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Water and Wastewater Blog – Water Meters

Guest blogging is a great way to build up readership and expose yourself to new audiences. Over the past ten months I have written occasionally for and for the blogs and have had discussions with several others.

Today I posted another article on the blog, this time, tying into my recent post on water meters. As this blog has a wide range of readership, certainly wider than the Civil, Sustainability and Urban focus of this blog, and is in the specialist niche of water and wastewater, I’m hoping for some interesting comments on what I’ve written.

Water meters are a great tool for leak detection, demand management with an appropriate pricing structure and may even have benefits such as delaying infrastructure upgrades. But what do you do when there is a clean plentiful supply of water?

I’ve recently moved from the drought stricken climate of coastal Australia, where even public showers at the beach have been permanently shut off; to Castlegar, on the Columbia River valley in British Columbia, Canada.

Water and Wastewater Blog: Water Meters in a Bountiful Land

See the photo below for an example of the runoff and dam release in our area, as well as a map of the rivers and dams around our city.

Brilliant Dam Panorama


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