UPDATED: Tiered water system voted out by Abbotsford council

Abbotsford will return to a universal system that will see users pay $1.15 for every 1,000 litres used.

The cancellation of the tiered water rate system was great news to Bhupinder Singh Bansal.

The Abbotsford resident has been a vocal opponent of the system, calling it unfair to large families who use more water living normal daily lives.

Bansal has spoken to council, asking them to axe the tiered system in favour of a uniform rate.

He was in the audience on Monday when council did just that.

“It’s very good. They listened to us,” said Bansal.

Coun. John Smith led the charge for change, having argued against tiered rates from the beginning. He called it unfair to force people to pay a higher rate per cubic metre (1,000 litres), based on consumption.

The former tiered system had users paying $1.13 per cubic metre in the winter, but those rates would rise in the high use months (May to October). Only the first 60 cubic metres used in a billing cycle (every two months) was charged at $1.13 per cubic metre.  The cost jumped to $1.43 for 60 to 91 cubic metres and rose again to $2.26 for every cubic metre over 91.

“People should pay for what they use, but should be charged the same rate for the first 1,000 litres as they are for the last 1,000 litres,” said Smith.

Beginning on May 1, the new rate will see users pay $1.15 for every cubic metre of water used.

There is no cost associated to the city for the change.

Bansal said he and those he’s talked to are satisfied.

“The slight change in price is OK, it’s fairly minor.”

Smith said the change will not affect the city budget, which reflected no rate increase for water.

He said the move is not considered to be an increase because the water budget was created based on achieving an average cost of $1.15 per cubic metre.

“And to do that a pile of people would pay $1.13, so we’d pick up the two cent shortfall from those who paid higher rates.”

Originally, the tiered system was initiated to promote conservation in the summer months.

However, many large families felt it penalized them.

Owners of homes with secondary suites also felt the system was unfair.

According to Smith, about 7,000 people were affected by the tiered rates and were “paying dearly” for an essential commodity.

He said the city is like a monopoly because residents can’t buy their water anywhere else.

He feels bi-monthly billing will still promote conservation.

As part of his motion, Smith also asked staff to investigate a process that would bring the ICI (industrial, commercial and institutional) and agricultural water rates in line with residential. Currently, they pay less.

The ICI/Ag rate is 92 cents per cubic metre for the first 10,000. That rate drops to 85 cents for 10,000 to 100,000 and drops again, to 69 cents for anything over 100,000 cubic metres.

“I want to see if it’s possible to change that,” said Smith.