British Columbia

Residents in Okanagan municipality fined for meddling with water meters to save money

Four people in Oliver, B.C., have been issued tickets in the past six months for tampering with water meters or installing bypasses in order to save money on water - by making it look like they aren't using very much.

'Our technician can tell right away if the meter has been tampered with,' says CFO of Oliver, B.C.

One resident saved as much as $750 by altering the meter to make it appear they weren't using much water. (Tim Graham)

Four homeowners in Oliver, B.C. have been fined for stealing hundreds of dollars worth of water after city officials say they found instances of irregularities on some residents' water meters.

One offender in the South Okanagan town of 4,000 was found to have saved nearly $750 on water consumption. Each of the four homeowners was handed a $1,000 ticket for stealing water. One of those people is disputing the ticket, but the other three have already paid their fines.

Each month, a technician reviews water usage data, looking for leakages or instances of zero consumption — where certain residences aren't using any water in an entire month. When they find something strange, they compare the usage with prior years.

"Any time we see variances out of our standard deviation, we start to investigate," said Doug Leahy, Oliver's chief financial officer.

"You drive by a person's property, the garden is beautiful and green, the lawn is beautiful and green and you have minimal consumption," Leahy said.

"I mean, less than a cubic metre of water being used a day, which is highly suspect."

Since February, a municipal technician has come across at least four homes where a bypass had been installed around the meters, or people altered the meter so that it tracks water consumption sometimes, but not all the time. 

"Our technician can tell right away if the meter has been tampered with," Leahy said. 

In one instance, a resident called officials to report the behaviour of a family member, he said.

With files from Blaine Gaffney


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