All properties in the City of Castlegar have water meters to help residents and businesses conserve water.
Why Do I Have a Water Meter?
Castlegar gets all its drinking water from the Lower Arrow Lakes, just above the Hugh Keenlyside Dam. Water gets pumped from the dam into eight reservoirs installed across the City, including to the Airport and out to the end of Blueberry Road.
It takes a lot of energy to move all that water, and in the past, the pumps were having trouble keeping up with peak Summer demands. The City introduced water meters to encourage water conservation, eliminating the need for the expensive pump upgrades while also reducing energy costs.
Where is My Water Meter?
Most residents and commercial properties will have their meter inside their house / building, close to where the water enters from their property or building. In homes, it may be in a crawl space, but is usually in a utility space, near the hot water tank. It is not permitted to have any connections upstream of the water meter because water taken from these connections will not be measured.
Residential meters may look like the pictures below. The beige box is a radio transmitter that allows the City to collect water usage data remotely.
Some residential properties in Castlegar were built before the water meter program was initiated and installing a meter in the house was deemed too difficult. Therefore, a few hundred properties in the City have their meter in a water meter pit. These are outside the property line, and have a plastic lid as shown in the picture below:
Water meter pits are installed on City property and are the exclusive ownership of the City.
Residents must not open or otherwise access meter pits servicing their properties. Please contact Civic Works if you need help with your water meter pit.
Commercial meters will usually look like the following, although some properties will have other styles of meters that look similar. A beige box that transmits water usage data to the City will be wired to the radio like the residential meter shown above.
How Does the Water Meter Work?
Most meters in Castlegar use either a turbine or electromagnetism to detect water moving through the meter. These meters are very accurate, measuring down to 100 mL, and able to detect even small leaks from toilets or dripping faucets.
The meters record the consumption, which can be viewed by opening the display cover on the top of the water meter, as shown in the photos above. The number is the total consumption recorded since the meter was installed, in cubic metres (1,000 Litres).
On the last day of each month, the City drives a truck with special equipment throughout Castlegar that reads the consumption data. This data is sent to the Financial Services department, which processes the bills. At the same time, the City may receive alerts from any meter that is detecting possible leaks at the property.
All residents and businesses with functioning water meters are charged a base rate plus a consumption rate for their water and sewer. These rates can be found in Bylaw 1357 – Water Regulations and Rates.
Residential water meters and radio transmitters are owned by the City of Castlegar. If they fail and need replacement, the City pays all costs for replacement and installation.
Business water meters and radio transmitters are owned by the property owner. If they fail and need replacement, the owner is responsible for all costs for replacement and installation.
When the meter detects water moving through it for 24 hours straight, it triggers a leak alarm. This is because normal water use will fluctuate throughout the day, so continuous usage means that something unusual is going on that needs to be looked at.
Currently, the City is only capable of receiving these leak alarms monthly, when we pick up consumption reads. We will send out a courtesy notice informing the property owner that we have received this alarm with recommended steps to take.
If you are operating a business where continuous water usage is expected, such as a hotel, or care facility, or you have water-cooled refrigeration equipment, please notify the City so we can ensure you do not receive these notices.
How to Check for Leaks
Some meters are older and do not report leaks. There are still steps that can easily be taken to confirm you do not have any unknown water being wasted.
The checks below can be done without plumbing knowledge and will capture the cause of most leaks. Most residential leaks are generally inexpensive to resolve.
If your meter is in your house, check the number on the screen or dial before you go to bed and when you wake up in the morning. The number should be the same. If it is not, it indicates water was running somewhere in your house overnight.
If your meter is in a meter pit, please contact Civic Works to book an inspection of your meter pit. Residents are asked not to access the meter pits servicing their property.
Take the lid off of the tank and listen and watch for water flowing into the overflow tube. This indicates your water level in the tank is set too high and is going through the overflow. Lower the height of the float by adjusting the float adjustment control to stop this leak.
Put dark-coloured food colouring into the water in your tank and let it sit without flushing for 4 hours or overnight, if possible. The more dye you add, the easier it will be to detect leaks. If the dye appears in the bowl, your toilet flapper is allowing leaks and should be replaced.
If you have an older toilet, you may want to consider replacing the toilet. The City of Castlegar has a Toilet Rebate Program; see Apply for a Toilet Rebate for more information.
Ice makers, refrigerators, swamp coolers, and air conditioning may all be water-cooled units that could be causing unexpected water losses.
- Ensure your equipment is maintained regularly by a certified technician.
- Check that solenoid valves are working correctly and closing when the cooling is not in use.
- Check the overflow setpoint in your swamp coolers and ensure they are cleaned and maintained regularly to prevent illness.
- Turn off the equipment when not needed (i.e. air conditioning in the winter).
In the Summer you can take the following steps to check for irrigation leaks:
- Check your property for spots that are soggy or areas with greener and longer grass than other areas. This suggests your irrigation is leaking.
- Check fittings to see if they are leaking or dripping.
- If you have in-ground irrigation, you may need to hire an irrigation specialist to complete a leak test.