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So, how do Tofino’s bizarrely complex rates compare to other districts?  Do other municipalities also charge residents more? (And, if you still do not believe that residents are charged more, then I am sorry – I just do not know how else I can explain this any more clearly: you can go back to my August 2nd post, which outlines how our system works).

Then, let’s look around – at Port Alberni, Nanaimo, Victoria, and Vancouver (I’ll add Ukee, too, if I can – their rates are not posted on line) – and see how we compare.  

And, I know my posts are long – I’ll give you the summary now (keep reading if you want to see the supporting facts).
1.  None of these districts differentiates between residential and commercial rates.

2.  They especially do not distinguish between type of business, giving some more favourable rates than others.

3.  Some of them add a flat-fee monthly or quarterly charge that goes up according to the size of the water delivery pipe – this is a way to charge businesses proportionately more for their higher usage.

4.  Some have a few tiers, and some have no tiers.  Where they do have tiers, they are the same for everyone.

5.  All of them have simple rate-charging systems that anyone can understand.

Beside each place’s name, you can clink on the link to see where I got the information from.  There’s also a listing of water and sewage rates for towns Canada-wide here: http://www.ec.gc.ca/Water/en/manage/use/e_mun.htm#BC.  I have not had time to look through all of these – but if anyone else wants to, and post some info to share here, I’d sure welcome it!

PLEASE REMEMBER: meeting tonight to discuss all of this (plus the $1.50 surcharge they are proposing to go on top!) – at the Community Hall, 7pm.

Port Alberni: PDF file
They have the same rate for residents as businesses, with a total of 4 tiers – but customers with bigger delivery pipes (i.e. bigger commercial users) pay a higher monthly fee on top.
The first tier  is extremely high, kicking in at 1,133 m3 (per 4-months; in Tofino we are billed each 3 months) – which means all residents would always be at the first-tier rate of $0.37/m3.
Interestingly, they do two things about industrial users:
– the rates actually get lower as usage increases, but
– they add a monthly charge according to the size of the user’s delivery pipe (ranging from $10.48/month for 3/4” or less, to $166.68/month for a 10” delivery pipe)

Nanaimo: http://www.rdn.bc.ca/cms.asp?wpID=915
They have the same rate for residents as businesses with a total of 6 tiers.
They work their rate by average daily consumption – multiplying that out by 90 days (to compare to our quarterly billing) means that the lowest rate is $0.86/m3 for up to 63 m3 per quarter, and the next tier up is $1.00/m3 for up to 126 m3 per quarter.
– like Tofino, their rates go up with increased usage, but they go up much more rapidly, hitting the top rate of $3.00/m3 when quarterly usage exceeds 316 m3 – which means that higher consumers (i.e. businesses) pay more at pretty much all usages, not just at extremely high usages (unlike in Tofino – where a fish plant or large resort wouldn’t hit that rate until their consumption exceeds about 2000 m3)

Vancouver http://vancouver.ca/fs/treasury/utility/meterRates.htm
They have the same rate for residents as businesses, no tiers at all – but, like Port Alberni, businesses pay an additional charge that relates to the size of their delivery pipe.
What a simple system.  Their combined water+sewage rate (they calculate it in per 100 cubic feet) comes out to $1.08 per m3.
Like Port Alberni, they then add a quarterly charge that ranges from $25 to $536 per quarter, dependent upon the size of delivery pipe (i.e. big businesses with big delivery pipes would pay more).

Victoria http://www.victoria.ca/cityhall/departments_fincon_utilwaterrate.shtml
As far as I can tell it is the same rate for residential and business, with no tiers – but, like Port Alberni and Vancouver businesses pay an additional charge that relates to the size of their delivery pipe.  The volume charge fore everyone is $0.7o per m3 and the delivery charge ranges from $20 to $1000 per quarter.

Victoria’s Western Communities http://www.crd.bc.ca/water/waterbilling/residentialrates.htm
They have the same rate for residents as businesses, not no tiers at all.
Again, what a simple system – a flat rate of $1.37/m3 for all users.

Tofino  look at the graph
Residents pay more than businesses.
The complicated rate system means rates per m3 range from $0.90 to $3.70/m3, with certain classes of businesses getting much cheaper rates than others.  In addition to these rates, there is a proposal to add $1.50 per m3 in order to improve our water delivery system so it can deal with current and future usage requirements.

by John Wynne

Peace Day is a celebration of the United  Nations International Day of Peace.  The Tofino event is an important part of a world wide happening on Peace Day. The Free public event to be held in the Tofino Village Green from 12:00 noon to 9:00 p.m. features 6 bands, speakers on peace and peaceful protest, a choral presentation and a dance presentation, artists displaying their work, food and non-alcoholic refreshment will be available.

The event will be opened by our Mayor John Fraser, and features special guest speaker and publisher of Common Ground magazine, Joseph Roberts.  The Friends of Clayoquot Sound will be playing an important and instrumental role at Peace Day, which celebrates our right to peaceful protest.  The event will be videotaped and streamed live to the internet on UStreaam.  (There is a link to the video stream on the webpage: http://www.peacedaytofino.com.)

There will be a crowd video moment at 7:45 P.M.  when the audience will assemble into a peace sign and light candles for the “Circle of Peace” movement.  This video will be uploaded as “Tofino Peace Sign”.  The Peace Day schedule is now posted and final.

Check out the link above to see the incredible schedule of events lined up for Peace Day Tofino.

So, one bit of information that we are clearly lacking is how much water an “average resident” consumes each year.  Our district considers “average residential consumption” to be less than 50 m3 per quarter.  But I believe that that number is inaccurate – and very low.

(I am sorry these posts are so long – it’s a lot of info, though, and I just want you guys to know why I am saying what I am saying – that I am not just making things up.)

I think their error comes in because of how they classify a  “residential” user.  We all know, in Tofino, that some fairly large percentage of homes here are not actually used as residences.  Many of them are vacation rentals (so probably slightly higher water usage than most residents over summer, because of hot tubs, rinsing of surfboards and wetsuits, many showers by frequent beachgoers, increased laundry and dishwasher use – but probably very low-occupancy or empty over winter, so extremely low water usage over those months).  And some of them are private vacation homes owned by people who live elsewhere, and are empty for much of the year (e.g. many of the houses and condos fronting on Chestermans Beach).

For some reason, our district has never undertaken any study to determine just how many “homes” are actually occupied by real residents.  However, we can at least get some idea by going through StatsCan Census data.  Here are a few figures from the last 3 available surveys, going back over a decade, along with a bit of analysis:

Tofino                                   1996        2001        2006
1. population                            1170        1466        1655
2. # of dwellings                        440            721          941
3. # dwellings “occupied by usual residents”                 680
4. % <15 years old                     19.7        16.0           15.7

1. Population
In the 10 years from 1996 to 2006 our population has increased from 1170 to 1655 – an increase of 41%.

2. Number of dwellings
In the 10 years from 1996 to 2006 the number of dwellings (houses, condos, etc.) has increased from 440 to 941 – an increase of 114%, i.e. more than doubled.
That means that in 1996 there were and average of 2.7 people per home here, but in 2006 there were only 1.8 people per home.
If we make the two following assumptions:
1. that all of the homes in 1996 were occupied by residents (which is probably not 100% true, but close), and
2. that the average number of people actually living in a home is the same in 2006 as it was in 1996, i.e. 2.7 people per home, that would give us an estimate of 613 homes occupied by residents in 2006 (1655 people divided by 2.7 per home = 613)
This estimate is probably slightly on the low side because of Assumption#1.

3.  Number of dwellings “occupied by usual residents”
They only started collecting this stat in 2006.  So, in Tofino in 2006, 680 of the 941 dwellings were occupied by the “usual residents” –  this fits very well with my estimate calculated above, of slightly over 613, and suggests that my assumptions were not too far off.
So, in 2006, 261 homes were not occupied by the “usual residents” (941 – 680 = 261).  That is 28% of “residences” that are not occupied by residents – i.e. are vacation rentals or mostly empty private vacation homes.  (And this is why I say that the district’s water usage calculations are skewed – because many of the homes they include in their calculation are not actually occupied by residents).

4.  Percentage of population under 15 years
This is not related to the water issue – but it is a concern, as it shows how our community is changing.  Many of us know of young families with children who have left the community in recent years, largely because they cannot afford to live here – and also that this declining enrolment has an effect on our school in terms of funding and what resources and extra-curricular activities it can provide.  It also has an effect on other community services, such as our hospital.
In the ten years from 1996, the proportion of children under the age of 15 in our population dropped from 19.7 to 15.7 per cent.  That might not sound like a lot – but it is actually a drop of 20%, a very disturbing reflection of what is happening to our community.

OK, now back to estimates of average water consumption.

So our district estimates that average quarterly residential water consumption is less than 50m3 per household.  I would argue that estimate is too low, for three reasons:

1.  As stated in my point 2, above, around 28% of homes classed as “residences” are not actually occupied by residents.  Many of these homes would be empty or very low occupancy over the winter, and a few of them (the private vacation homes) would even be empty for much of the entire year.  So the very low annual water usage of these homes would skew the average, the way the district calculates it, and lead them to come up with a number that is too low.

2.  Looking at the home I used to own on Howard Drive, with occupancy similar to that of what a family would have (usually a total of 4 or 5 occupants in the home year-round; in this case divided into an upstairs and a downstairs suite), our total water consumption over winter was around 50 m3 per quarter, and over summer around 80 m3 per quarter – so, year-round, something like 65 m3.

You can look at your own water bills to see what your own household’s quarterly usage is – there is a convenient graph on the left side that summarizes the previous year.  I’d be curious to have other people Comment on this post (just click on Leave a Comment, at the top) and say what your winter/summer use is and how many people live in your home – just so we can all get an idea of what “average” or “typical” is.

3.  Looking at figures in other places, quarterly, I find:
Nanaimo: 64 m3
Port Alberni: 73 m3
Canada-wide: 59 m3
(Where did I get these numbers?  The Nanaimo district website lists the Canadian average household consumption as 646 l/d, and the Nanaimo average, estimated at 700 l/d.  The Port Alberni water rates page notes that the average residential consumer uses 800 l/d.  To calculate quarterly usage I multiplied the daily use by 90 days, then divided by 1000 to convert litres to m3, cubic metres).
So, comparing with average residential consumption in other areas, it seems that Tofino’s guesstimate of under 50 m3 is low.

CONCLUSION: We don’t yet know what the water consumption of an average resident it – and we won’t until we get a handle on how many homes are actually occupied by residents, and then re-do the district’s classification system accordingly.

But, for now, it seems pretty clear from many lines of evidence that the district’s figure of <50 m3 is inaccurate, and too low.

Well, I know that most people won’t be able to read this until it’s already back on – but anyway…

BC Hydro indicates that the power in Tofino and Ukee should be back on around 11:15 tonight. Interestingly, they say the cause of the outage in Tofino is “transmission circuit failure” and in Ukee it is “object on our wires”.  Both outages started at the same time, 4:21 pm.

Hello everyone –

In all of the spare time that I don’t have, I’ve been researching how water rates are charged in other districts – both on Vancouver Island and across the country.

With the exception of Tofino, the formulae for charging water rates (residents vs. businesses; summer vs. winter; having or not having rate tiers) are extremely simple. What’s coming up from it is pretty interesting, though
– Tofino residential rates are much higher than pretty much anywhere else
– no other district that I’ve looked at charges residents more than businesses besides Tofino
– water rates themselves, as well as methods for calculating them, vary widely across the region

It’s a real lot of work to go through it all – but in the coming days I will present some analyses of it all for you.  So please check back for details!

For now, I will provide you with links to some of the rates information that I have uncovered (which you can refer to in my upcoming posts), as well as remind you of the public meeting to discuss water rates and water issues, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2009 at the Tofino Community Hall at 7:00 p.m.

Please check back here as I continue to post more info, so you can be fully informed on this issue.  And, if you care about these things, please do your best to show up at the meeting.

For now, some water rates info:
Port Alberni
Nanaimo
Victoria’s “Western Community”
Vancouver rates
A comparison of water bills across southern Vancouver Island and Canada

Hey look, this is the kind of thing that makes me feel really good about our town – a local business taking the initiative to contribute to our community:

Nomination Request

The Best Western Tin Wis Resort will offer a local’s discount of 20% in the Calm Waters Dining Room, beginning October 1st. On Saturday October 3rd, and every second Saturday thereafter, this 20% will be donated to a local charity/organization that provides invaluable services to the coastal communities.

We are in the process of searching for organizations that will receive this contribution, but we need some help compiling a list of charities and organizations in the towns of Tofino and Ucluelet.

We are asking for nominations from the communities for a list of organizations that you would like to see receive this donation.
Please forward the name of the charity/organization that you would like us to consider.
Email: media(at)tinwis.com

We are very excited about this program and would like the community’s help in determining the beneficiaries.
Thank you and if you have any questions or suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Warmest Regards,
Jenny Touchie
Director of Sales and Marketing
Best Western Tin Wis Resort
250.725.4445
media(at)tinwis.com
http://www.tinwis.com