The RDNO manages several utilities and partners with other local governments to deliver utility services, so you may get a bill directly from the RDNO or you may see charges on your municipal utility bill that relate to RDNO services along with other services provided by your community.
Greater Vernon Water customers living within the City of Vernon or District of Coldstream boundaries are billed via their municipality. Customers should contact the municipality that issued your bill if you have questions about specific charges on your bill and for payment options.
- City of Vernon 250-545-1361
- District of Coldstream 250-545-5304
- RDNO - Electoral Areas 250-550-3700
Water and sewer rates are set by the RDNO Board of Directors, which includes political representatives from the municipalities served. Rates are based on the actual cost to provide the service.
Regional utilities legally cannot run a deficit and each year’s annual expenses, including operation and maintenance, debt payments, construction and reserve contributions, must be recovered directly from user fees during that year or be funded from reserves. RDNO utilities do not receive taxation funds and the only other source of income are grant funds that a utility seeks out to assist in reducing costs to customers.
Greater Vernon Water Frequently Asked Questions
GVW is the 3rd largest utility in B.C. by volume, due to it being a regional supplier to a large mixed urban/agricultural area. Click on question to expand and learn more about how the utility bills:
All customers pay an Infrastructure Base Fee. The purpose of this fee is to cover approximately half the costs of the water system, ensuring a stable source of funds that won’t fluctuate based on water consumption. In a rainy year, water use may drop significantly but the majority of the cost to provide water on demand 24/7 to a property does not depend on the volume of water used.
A consumption charge per cubic metre of water used (in addition to the Infrastructure Base Fee) is levied to encourage efficient water use. This fee doesn’t reflect the actual cost to produce a cubic meter of water, but instead involves tiered fees that increase as the volume of water used increases.
Tier Volume Rate (effective January 1, 2021) 1 0-40 cubic metres per quarter $0.91/cubic metre 2 Over 40-80 cubic metres per quarter $1.82/cubic metre 3 Over 80 cubic metres per quarter $2.74/cubic metre 3a Non Domestic and Mixed Use only - Over 1,000 cubic metres $1.82/cubic metre
Each year, GVW must set a balanced budget where projected expenses are recovered fully by that year’s projected user fees. Over 90% of GVW’s costs to operate the water utility are fixed while the remaining 10%, mainly electrical power and chemical costs, are dependent on how much water is used. In other words, if a customer goes away for three months and uses no water, GVW must still maintain the water system to ensure the availability of water to all customers and the cost to do so remains fixed. GVW operations staff monitor water quality, ensure pipes are sized to meet peak customer demand volumes, and monitor pumps and other infrastructure to maintain adequate pressure for firefighting for 24/7 coverage to respond to emergencies even if no water is being used by an individual property.
The RDNO Board has set a target of deriving 50% of the GVW income from base fees to help ensure a stable source of revenue to meet fixed operating costs. The fixed base fee is listed on customer water bills as the quarterly Infrastructure Base Fee. All customers pay this fee, even those with vacant land and/or no water use, as the majority of the cost to deliver water to a property does not depend on the volume of water used. Each year the utility also deals with rising electricity and materials costs that must be supported by customer’s fees. GVW staff strive to operate a cost effective and sustainable water utility as we are customers too who also want to keep rates low while making sure our water supply is safe and reliable.
Why is there a Consumption Rate in addition to the Infrastructure Base Fee?
In order to reward customers who choose to conserve water, a large portion of the annual income to the utility is obtained through consumption fees, a cost charged per cubic metre of water use. Consumption fees do not reflect the true cost to deliver each cubic meter of water as 90% of the GVW budget is fixed, but instead is used as an incentive to encourage efficient water use. Having a rate structure primarily based on consumption fees puts the utility at a high risk of not meeting income projections as water use is heavily dependent on the weather. Budget shortfalls have occurred in the past when the rates were heavily based on consumption fees. If income projections are not met, there is a risk of a high rate hike being required the following year to make up for the shortfall.
Efforts to conserve are not wasted as the water efficient residential customer is saving money compared to a neighbouring water hog who will pay more through GVW's domestic tiered consumption rate system.
Water conservation benefits the entire community as it reduces long term demands on the system, allowing us to delay building larger reservoirs and over-sizing infrastructure. Being efficient water users will support economic development in Greater Vernon, as low water demand landscaping (xeriscape) and other efforts to conserve will allow us to weather future drought with fewer negative impacts.
Residential water use can double during the summer months; primarily due to garden and lawn irrigation. Customers with xeriscaped gardens can enjoy a beautiful yard despite drought conditions and get the benefit of a reduced consumption bill. The RDNO offers information on designing and maintaining a waterwise yard – please visit the Water Conservation page.
In an effort to improve transparency, GVW has created a Water Meter Renewal Fee to equitably fund water meter replacement costs. The cost to replace a water meter varies depending on the meter size. Instead of using an average cost to replace a meter, customers will be charged based on their actual meter size to equitably share the cost of this infrastructure. The Infrastructure Base Fee was reduced to offset the introduction of this fee to customers.
Water Meter Renewal Fee—based on meter size Quarterly Fee (effective January 1, 2021) 26mm or less (1" and less) $7.62 27mm - 55mm (1 1/2" - 2") $38.11 56mm - 80mm (2 1/2" - 3") $76.22 81mm - 110mm (3 1/2" - 4") $109.00 111mm - 160mm (4 1/2" - 6") $218.00 Larger than 160mm (larger than 6") $327.00
GVW has a multi-year asset management program to better manage the costs associated with maintenance, repair, and replacement of infrastructure. This program allows GVW to calculate the full cost of providing services and prevent surprise rate increases to deal with failing infrastructure.
Installing the extra pipes needed to provide untreated water to all agricultural customers and treated water to domestic customers is more expensive than using treated water for irrigation. While more separation is feasible in some locations, this is not the case for agricultural properties far from the existing non-potable water pipes. The 2017 GVW Master Water Plan (MWP) provides a detailed discussion on this, including engineering cost estimates based on an analysis of both construction and operation & maintenance costs over a 50 year life cycle.
GVW has completed some separation projects, based on the priority list from previous planning processes and studies completed, where there were health risks for customers or where costs to complete the separation were more reasonable. The 2017 MWP recommends completing separation in Lavington and Coldstream areas because of the large agricultural properties in these areas resulting in more reasonable costs (although the costs are still higher than building larger treatment plants and delivering treated water to agricultural customers). However, the MWP recommends not to separate in the B.X. area as the costs are prohibitive due to the small acreage sizes and large number of pipes needed to complete full separation (see MWP - Technical Memorandums 5 and 9 for more detailed information).
In 2014, GVW staff recommended borrowing funds in part to pay for the Lavington/Coldstream separation projects, to help spread the cost out over several years and avoid burdening customers with large rates hikes for a short time, but the borrowing referendum was defeated. As a result, the RDNO Board decided to have a Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC) review the MWP before further work was completed. All further separation projects have been put on hold until the SAC review is completed.
Yes, in areas with a non-potable water supply main adjacent to the property, the property owner may apply to use the non-potable water. GVW staff must review the application as some properties may not be eligible due to infrastructure capacity. As part of the application process, GVW staff will provide a list of conditions that must be met prior to approving the use of non-potable water. While customers using non-potable water for non-agricultural purposes would benefit from a lower consumption rate compared to domestic and non-domestic rates, there are several costs involved in installing the non-potable water service that should be considered:
- Water Service Application Fee (per the current GVW Rates Imposition Bylaw)
- Cost to Connect (Water Service Connection Fee based on service size per the current GVW Rates Imposition Bylaw)
- Meter and ERT purchase and installation
- Backflow Preventer purchase and installation
- Meter Pit Installation
- A quarterly Water Meter Renewal Fee, per the current GVW Rates Imposition Bylaw will be charged for the new meter.
GVW’s water rates are actually close to the middle of the pack when compared to other Okanagan communities (see table below). Comparing rates is challenging as each water utility has a unique set of operating challenges and costs depending on the community it serves, its customer base, and its water source(s). Most notably, GVW rates are often compared to Kelowna and Penticton which both only have urban customers with much smaller water volumes and pipe/infrastructure to operate and maintain. In addition, Penticton had two community outbreaks in the 1990s where a large percentage of their population became sick and they received substantial grants to build their treatment plant. Kelowna is supplied by five different water utilities; the urban water utility managed by the City of Kelowna is often used as a comparison to GVW while the other four utilities are never mentioned but have similar rates and challenges as GVW (i.e. a mix of urban and agricultural customers).
GVW strives to keep fees as low as possible - no one wants to pay more fees - but the reality is that providing safe, reliable drinking water comes at a cost.
Significant rate increases began after new laws required water utilities to undertake considerable improvements to protect the public from preventable waterborne illness. These laws, including the B.C. Drinking Water Protection Act in 2001 and the B.C. Drinking Water Protection Regulation in 2003, were a response to several major public health crises, including Walkerton in 2001 where a host of improper operating practices led to contamination of the water supply and seven people died and thousands were sickened. A report on waterborne disease outbreaks in B.C. from 1980-2002 titled “Watered Down” by the Sierra Legal Defence Fund noted: “Since 1980, when its public health officials began tracking community waterborne disease outbreaks, B.C. has had 28 serious wakeup calls. Thousands of people have fallen ill in 25 communities (Chilliwack, Creston and Penticton were unfortunate enough to be hit by two separate outbreaks)”.
Since 2003, GVW has spent close to $70 million in infrastructure improvements (with $14.8 million funded through grants) which include building the Duteau Creek Water Treatment Plant, Mission Hill Water Treatment Plant, McMechan Reservoir, numerous interconnections between the Kalamalka Lake and Duteau Creek supplies, upgrading the Kalamalka Lake Pump Station and completing numerous separation projects (Bella Vista, King Edward, Von Keyserlingk, West Swan Lake, Grey, Highway 6 and Springfield).
In addition to the infrastructure improvements, GVW was required to implement or enhance a number of programs that include Watershed Protection Plans, increased Water Quality monitoring, a Cross Connection Control program, Emergency Response Plan, Dam Safety program, Asset Management Plan and increased reporting requirements, standardized operating procedures and Strategic Planning. All this work has increased the price of water but has also greatly enhanced the safety and reliability of the drinking water supply.
Click here to view the 2020 Comparison of Domestic Water Rates.
Yes, GVW requires that all water supplied be metered, to ensure equitable billing - you pay for what you use. In a meter is not installed a flat rate penalty fee per quarter is added to the Infrastructure Base Fee as follows:
- Initial and first full quarter after written warning $330.00
- Second and third quarters $550.00
- Fourth quarter $1,000.00
- After one year and beyond $2,000.00/quarter