New funding from the provincial government will soon allow the City of Merritt to install a residential water metering system, a move both the city and province said will conserve water and protect vital infrastructure systems. 

The city currently has water metering in place for sone organizations and multi-unit complexes within the community, although it has not been able to raise the required funds to implement residential water metering. As a part of a $3,000,000 investment by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, residential water metering will become a reality in Merritt in the next five years.

“This funding is an important first step towards protecting our future water resources,” said Merritt Mayor Mike Goetz in a release. “The City of Merritt is grateful to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs for their continued support in helping to improve the city’s services and to implement good water conservation practices.”

The city said in its own press release that while the City of Merritt Water Conservation Policy led to a 43 percent decline in average water consumption per person from 2006 to 2019, the city’s consumption at 742 litres per-person, per-day, is still significantly higher than the provincial average at 503 litres, and national average at 427 litres. While the conservation policy has helped, the city has identified the need for more action to ensure property owners are billed fairly for water use. 

The cost of water is billed to each city property owner on their annual taxes. Under a water metering system, residents that conserve their water usage would likely experience a reduction in taxes, while those that use large amounts will be billed at a higher rate for their consumption. The province noted in its release that the new investment will not only reduce water usage, but also support the sustainability of local ecosystems.

“Local governments across the province are working hard to improve or upgrade aging infrastructure so that our communities can continue to thrive,” said Anne Kang, Minister of Municipal Affairs. 

“We are working together with the City of Kelowna and City of Merritt to ensure they have the resources they need, which includes investing in projects to protect the vital drinking water and wastewater systems people rely on.”

The water metering project will run approximately $3,526,814, and is now funded largely by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs’s $3 million investment. The more than half a million dollars remaining will be drawn from the city’s water reserve fund, meaning Merritt residents will not see any additional costs for this improvement.

As a part of the provincial funding announcement, the Turtle Lake dams in Kelowna will be strengthened and reinforced with earthworks and wastewater management to prevent the deterioration of groundwater sources and Okanagan Lake.