Vancouver gets new water rules

The city hopes to decrease water consumption by one-third by 2020

Vancouver gets new water rulesLast month, in a special feature titled “One colossal waste,” Maclean’s noted that Vancouver, a city which routinely receives gushing praise for its green taxes, green jobs, and green buildings, is actually among the leading per-capita water consumers in the country. Residents pay a flat annual rate of $360 per household, and only 14 per cent of water customers in Vancouver are metered, most of them commercial users—that’s the lowest rate of any major Canadian city. This system, critics said, encourages waste, and contributes to the growing volume of sewage Canadians generate annually.

Now, it seems, the city agrees. Last week, a municipal report likened the fixed, flat-rate water delivery system to an “all-you-can-eat buffet,” noting that under metered regimes, customers use 60 per cent less water. That report, later presented to city council, also dubbed Vancouver’s water system “inefficient and unsustainable,” as well as “unfair”—since “households that waste water pay the same as those that conserve.” Fewer than 30 per cent of Canadians, it noted, still use Vancouver’s “archaic approach.”

Mayor Gregor Robertson presented the report last week at a conference in the city. Pay-per-use water meters, he said, are necessary if Vancouver is going to meet its target of decreasing water consumption by one-third by 2020. He also promised that Vancouver would be “greener than Portland,” the first U.S. city to enact a comprehensive plan to reduce CO2 emissions. Portland, whose population density is double that of Metro Vancouver, has also aggressively pushed green building initiatives and runs a comprehensive system of light rail, buses and streetcars (free in the downtown core).

There are only “so many ways” to reduce water consumption, says city councillor Andrea Reimer, part of an advisory committee on green initiatives in the city. Metering might very well be the best way to stop Vancouverites from being water pigs.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.