Monday, February 25, 2019

Council of Councils: An Overview of Metro Vancouver Regional District Services - Part 1

The Metro Vancouver Regional District is a federation of municipalities, Tsawwassen First Nation, and unincorporated areas. Each local government appoints members to the Metro Vancouver board. Because the majority of councillors in our region do not actively participate in the regional district’s committees and boards, twice a years, a Council of Councils meeting is held. This is a town-hall format event where local elected representatives receive updates about the regional district, and have an opportunity to ask questions.

Map of Metro Vancouver Regional District including other local governments. Select map to enlarge.

I attended the first Council of Councils meeting since the fall election on Saturday. Because there are many new people elected in local government, the focus of this Council of Councils was on providing a high level overview of the regional district and the services it provides.

Metro Vancouver is home to 53% of BC’s population. Services started being regionalize in 1914 with sewerage and drainage services, followed shortly by water services. The regional district has a proposed 2019 budget of $831.4 million.

Water, sewerage, and drainage services require a significant amount of funding to operate and maintain. The following is a sample of some of the $200 million plus projects that the regional district is working on:

  • Annacis Island Wastewater Treatment Plant Stage 5 Expansion - $538.3 million
  • Northwest Langley Wastewater Treatment Plant Expansion - $537.6 million
  • Second Narrows Marine Crossing - $351 million
  • Coquitlam Main No. 4 - $236 million
  • Annacis Marine Crossing - $217 million

The Council of Councils meeting lasted about 3 hours, and with the density of information provided, it was like drinking from a firehose a points.

I will be posting some highlights from this meeting in two parts. Today, I will focus on the regional district’s utilities which represent about 85% of its expenditures. Later in the week, I’ll be posting about the remaining services.

Water Services

Metro Vancouver has the largest water filtration facilities in Canada. Water services require a high level of investment. Metro Vancouver’s website provides information on their three reservoirs. The proposed 2019 budget for water services in the region is $289 million.

Langley City buys water from Metro Vancouver which is then fed into our water system before connecting to housing and businesses in our community.

Demand for water has been relatively flat even as our region grows due to conservation efforts, but the district is starting to see demand grow now. This means that the regional district will need to double-down on conservation efforts, and also start to plan for further expansion to make sure that water is available for everyone as the region continues to grow. The regional district is about to start work on a 30-year infrastructure plan to help guide investments required.

Liquid Waste-Sewerage Services

As I noted earlier, sewerage services have been regionalized for over 100 years. While people don’t think much about sewers today, they are one of the key components of the public health system.

The proposed 2019 budget for liquid waste services is $309 million to support five wastewater treatment plants including significant upgrades to accommodate population growth and new environmental standards which require secondary treatment of wastewater. The cost of upgrading these treatment plants will have a large impact on property tax in the coming years. Like the water utility, a 30-year infrastructure plan is being developed.

Solid Waste Services

Metro Vancouver residents, buinessines, and visitors generate around 3 million tonnes of garbage per year. While our region is a leader in North America with 63% of garbage being diverted into recycling and organics streams, this is a long way from the region’s goal of 80% garbage diversion. Beyond diverting garbage, one of the keys is to reduce waste from being created in the first place. The good news is that there has been a decline in garbage even as our region is growing. The regional district is working with other communities and organizations throughout Canada to help further this decline in garbage generation.

Two areas that the regional district is working on is how to better handle construction and demolition waste which can be voluminous, as well as working on an action plan to reduce single-use item waste such as food containers.

Metro Vancouver operates a waste-to-energy facility which consumes about a quarter of the garbage that would otherwise end up in landfill. A 30-year infrastructure plan is being developed for solid waste services. The proposed 2019 budget for these services is $107 million.

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