- How do you bill for water?
- What is a water meter?
- Why has Saint John Water stopped the conversion of flat rate customers to water meters?
How do you bill for water?
Since the beginning of the water utility in 1855 most residential water customers have been charged for water and wastewater services on the basis of a flat-rate. Customers pay the same amount for each residential unit regardless of the quantity of water used. The flat-rate is considered inequitable by many because consumers with a low annual consumption subsidise households that used much more water. Flat-rate water bills are sent out on a semi-annual basis, but a monthly budget plan can also be arranged.
On the other hand, industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) customers are billed on a consumption basis; paying for what they use. Water meters are read every two months with subsequent bills being issued. A preauthorised, monthly budget plan is available for metered customers, but a year-end reconciliation is required to settle any differences in the estimated consumption.
What is a water meter?
A water meter is a measuring device installed on the water supply pipe where it enters the building. They are precision devices capable of detecting minute flows of water. The meters come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and designs, but for typical residential applications a 5/8” meter will meet the needs of most households.
Why has Saint John stopped the conversion of flat rate customers to water meters?
There has been a considerable increase in requests for conversion of flat-rate water and sewerage customers to metered billing. This is, in one way, encouraging. These people anticipate they will experience a reduction in utility costs by being charged on a measured basis; believing they are currently paying too much (and that others must be paying too little) for utility services.
Section 30(2) of the By-Law Respecting Water and Sewerage provides: "All water supplied to a property that is used for any purpose other than three or less dwelling units shall be paid for on the basis of quantities that have been measured by a water meter." This essentially states that all serviced properties will be charged on the basis of measured consumption, with the exception of residential properties of three (3) units or less. Residential customers are charged on a flat rate basis.
Over the years, conversion requests have been few. As such, handling a few additional metered accounts has been inconsequential to operations (meter reading and servicing). Unfortunately, this is no longer the case;inquiries are received on an almost daily basis. We have had to put any further conversions on hold - for very practical reasons.
Metering is a must for a 21st century community concerned about costs of service, the efficient utilization of water resources and the sustainability of those resources. A truly fair and equitable system of charges also requires that everyone is billed on the basis of an accurate measure of their consumption. However, the implementation and administration of metering also requires resources; and, with greater numbers, the use of technology becomes essential. This is the main reason for our need to deny further requests at this time. Meter supplies are limited, each installation has to be read and serviced, and billing and collection considerations come into play. We are unable to divert resources away from current ICI customers - to handle a large number of new residential metered users spread randomly across the community.
Implementation of the (universal) metering program needs to be well planned, fully resourced and carefully managed. We are talking about 15,000 or so new installations. Critical to this will be automated meter reading technology; a transition from manual reading to a reliable and automatic computer-based system. The system must handle a large amount of data, such that customers are charged properly, water use efficiency is realized,and utility revenues optimized.