2014 will bring increases in service charges in a lot of municipalities, but for Sunshine Coast Regional District water users next year’s increase marks the beginning of a long range plan that will see universal metering in place by 2017.

At its final meeting of the year, the SCRD Board adopted a business plan tied to a new Regional Water Strategy. It calls for increases of about 4.7 per cent on residential fees and nearly 19 per cent for industrial users.

SCRD Chair Garry Nohr says the consultants behind the strategy, Opus Dayton Knight, made it clear user fees were falling behind costs. Opus Dayton Knight’s latest report, delivered in early December, suggested the Regional District will have to invest about 5 million dollars just to deal with the “backlog” of work needed on the water system.

The strategy is based in large part on a philosophy of “intensive demand management”, or water conservation. Opus Dayton Knight says in communities like Nanaimo the switch to universal metering made a huge difference in consumption.

Area F Director Lee Turnbull, and Area E’s Lorne Lewis both voted against adopting the business plan.