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Someone is having fun with headlines at the MotherCorp…

Ottawa to pull plug on toilet-rebate program


A popular program that gave Ottawa homeowners a chance to replace their toilets with more water-efficient models may be going down the drain.

The Ottawa city council planning and environment committee is meeting next Tuesday to discuss changes to the city’s water efficiency plan, including terminating the toilet-rebate program.

The city issued nearly 5,000 rebates last year of up to $75 per homeowner to install the water-efficient toilets, at a total cost of $330,000.

But seriously, this is a program that is costing a fair coin for the City but giving precious little in return.
But why are you saying that, Trashy? Isn’t water being saved, thus being good for the environment, saving money and putting less strain on water treatment infrastructure???
While there are some water savings to be realised through the use of low-flow toilets, the pecuniary cost savings simply aren’t there. Water is cheap. So cheap that many cities don’t bother to install water usage and instead residents pay a flat fee regardless of how much is used. And of course, if residents are paying diddly-squat for their agua what incentive is there to conserve? Lots of folks may have collected their 75 bucks from the City for a new toilet and I applaud them… they certainly didn’t do it for the cost-savings, so there must have been some passing acknowledgement that water conservation was something they believed in… right?
In that case, I would argue that they would have installed a low-flow toilet, rebate or no rebate.
The Vancouver Sun wrote an editorial on this subject yesterday noting that:

We need to value and conserve water; Pricing water service at closer to its true cost would help pay for infrastructure and reduce waste.Canadians pay far less for water than people in most other developed countries. It’s no coincidence that our per person water use is also among the highest in the world, rivalled only by the United States. With little financial incentive to conserve, we over-consume, and our over-consumption threatens water security, ecosystems and the sustainability of our water infrastructure.

Conservation-oriented water pricing is a rate structure adopted by a water service provider where the costs of providing services are recovered; individual customers are metered and pay for the volume of water they use. A crucial element requires the per unit price charged to individuals is sufficient to affect their decisions and behaviour, thereby encouraging conservation and efficiency.
A solution is to begin charging individuals and businesses what water really is worth, based on the volume they use. However, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. According to the most recent Environment Canada data (2006), over one-third of Canadian homes still do not have a water meter and the implementation of metering varies considerably from province to province. Surprisingly, only 32.6 per cent of houses are metered in B.C., 16.5 per cent in Quebec, and less than one per cent in Newfoundland, something that would be unthinkable in other basic utility services such as energy, natural gas or telephone.

The point being that unless homes and businesses start to pay something close to the really value of their water, there is very little incentive – other than for a social “good” – to really conserve or for manufacturers to churn out more “water friendly” wash machines and dishwashers.


Oh, and the following picture may be disturbing for some. It is a graphic shot of a bear that was shot outside a restaurant somewhere in the US of A…


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One Comment

  1. Of course, in Ottawa, it was recently discovered that conservation efforts have been so effective that the water utility is losing money and the rates will likely have to be raised soon…

    yes, your reward for doing your part is an increased bill, not a decreased one.

    So much for the low-volume toilets I put in. I think I’ll leave the water running when I brush my teeth…

    And remember, flush twice, it’s a long way to city hall.

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