Coun. Bill Farren says the water meters would be just another tax on consumers. (City of Saint John)

Plans to install water meters for Saint John homes have at least one city councillor concerned about the cost to citizens.

City managers contend meters are the only way to encourage conservation.

But Ward 1 Coun. Bill Farren fears the meters are just another way to squeeze cash out of consumers and even those who do cut back will find their bills go up instead of down.

"This is going to be another burden — might as well say another tax — for the consumers. And I don't agree with that," he said.

"If we're going to tax them, let's say we're going to tax them — be up front and honest."

Saint John already has the highest water rates in the province for residential customers and they have been steadily increasing in recent years.

As it stands, most residential customers pay a flat rate for water.

But residential meters are part of the city's plan for a $220-million water treatment system, slated to be implemented by 2015.

Properly-treated water is going to be expensive, said city manager Pat Woods. Without the meters, he worries people will waste water and it could cost even more.

"You can right now turn the sprinkler on on your lawn and go to the cottage for the weekend and just let it run," said Woods. "It costs you no more, no less, and if your neighbour is being water-wise, they don't get a break."

Farren says he agrees with conservation, but believes consumers are already pretty responsible about water usage.

The final decision on meters will be up to city council. It's unclear when the matter will go to a vote.