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Opinion  

Bulk water rate out of whack

For about the same price you would pay for a bottle of water at a corner store, commercial water companies can extract one million litres of groundwater from British Columbia's aquifers.

That's enough to fill a 25-metre swimming pool, and it will cost the companies just $2.25 when B.C.'s new Water Sustainability Act comes into effect next year.

The good news is that's 100 per cent more than commercial extractors and water bottlers previously paid. (Can you believe they got off scott free until recently?)

But numbers in the millions are hard to comprehend.

The provincial government makes much of its contention such users will pay the "highest rates." That maybe so when compared with agricultural users, but do you know how that compares to what you pay at home?

The province doesn't say much about residential rates other than a typical household might see its water bill climb by "just $1 to $2 per year."

So, we crunched some numbers.

One million litres equals 1,000 cubic metres, the typical unit of consumption on your home bill.

At $2.25, that equals .225 cents per cubic metre, or .000225 cents a litre.

Cheap, right? Certainly, a whole lot less than that bottle at the store. 

In Kelowna, the cheapest rate for home water use is 41.2 cents per cubic metre for the first 60 cubic metres. It goes up from there. That equals .0412 cents per litre – or 183 times more expensive than the bulk rate.

And in Vernon, where residents recently shot down a $70-million water system upgrade that would have increased costs further, rates are considerably higher still.

Vernon's first-tier rate is 50 cents per cubic metre and, based on consumption, it steps up to $1.05, $1.20, $1.50 and finally $2.25 per cubic metre at the top end.

Kind of makes Big Water Inc.'s profit margins look almost criminal.

"No one user will subsidize government by paying more than its fair share; more than what it costs government to develop and enforce the new rules within the (Act)," Minister of Environment Mary Polak said in a press release issued Monday.

When you look closely at the numbers, that doesn't appear to be the case, does it?

— News Director Jon Manchester

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