COMOX, B.C.- Comox council has approved an increase to the flat rate for water use.

The current rate of $351 is being bumped up by $24 for the 2018 calendar year.

“85 per cent of our residents are on the flat rate,” said Barbara Price, a Comox councilor.

Residents in Comox can either pay the flat rate or a metered rate, which is essentially a pay per use system. The Town of Comox purchases its water from the Comox Valley Regional District and distributes that water to consumers (residents and businesses).

According to the town’s water use bylaw, the minimum fee for residential consumers, who are on the metered system, is $15 per residential housing, family or housekeeping unit each calendar month (including, at no additional cost, up to 14 cubic metres of water use per unit per month), plus a rate of $1.12 per cubic metre for water use over 14 cubic metres every month.

“If you are under 14 cubic metres, you really are better off to be on a metered rate because you will save money,” said Price.

If residents select to go with the flat rate, they pay that fee for the year and can use as much water as they would like to. With this increase, the flat rate will come out to $375 for the people of Comox.

“We stayed with the five-year plan we put together last year, and that plan took into account the money that we will be needing to finance the new (Comox Valley water) treatment plant,” Price explained.

“So rather than it coming as a big increase once the plant is on the immediate horizon, we are trying to equalize that so that with the small increases, it will not hit people hard when the expenditure of that $100 million comes to us.”

She said council is hopeful that the Regional District will receive grants towards the new treatment plant. Price noted that grant possibilities make it difficult to “pin-point the exact amount of money we will need”.

“The rate reflects that we will be seeing these increasing costs for water treatment,” she said.

“The user fees cover the entire cost of water, there is no general taxation that goes into it. Basically, it’s to cover maintaining the level of service that we have now, and some of that goes into upgrades to (water) lines within the town and just having first-class delivery of drinking water.”

Price said the flat rate has been approved for 2018, so residents who subscribe to that method will notice the change on their next bill.

“I know that for many people, money is tight,” she said.

“I think people do realize though, that to have clean drinking water, it does come at a cost. Those who are low consumers of water may wish to look at going on the metered rate and they may find that they will save money that way.”

Price encouraged residents to conserve water wherever they can.

“To bring water from Comox Lake, that is of high quality to your tap, it does cost money and really, this is the cost of doing business.”

For more details on water services in Comox, visit the town’s website.