In May 2010 the City of Toronto launched its new water meter upgrade program, which targeted almost half a million homes for installation during the following few years. The deadline for enforcement of a new bylaw on this issue came and went on 1 July 2014, and homeowners who haven’t yet made the change face fines of up to $50,000.

The Point of the Program

The purpose of the blanket water meter upgrade is four-fold and includes:

  • Avoiding the need for the city’s water meter readers to enter your home to get a reading
  • Improving water conservation
  • Realizing savings on operational costs
  • Creating a “fair and equitable” basis for billing for all customers of Toronto Water

In many cases, Torontonians are still paying for their water based on a fixed-rate plan, which creates inequality because the cost is not the same as for residents with old-style water meters.

How to Upgrade

Upgrading is simple and doesn’t officially require any work by the homeowner. All you need to do is make an appointment with the City when you receive its orange Appointment Notice booklet in the mail.  Wards 6, 10, 13, 14, 16-24, 26-34, and 36 have already been completed, so if you fall into one of those you’re ok. If not, you should follow up urgently to avoid being penalized for non-compliance with the bylaw on the issue.

Pros and Cons

There are benefits and disadvantages to having the water meter upgrade performed. Benefits are that it’s quick and easy to do, and it takes an hour to an hour and a half for the city’s technicians to perform it. Once it’s done you’re safe from repercussions that go with ignoring a bylaw and hopefully you’ll save money on water usage in the future.

The main disadvantages are that you may find it’s necessary to do a water installation upgrade at the same time because if you live in one of the City’s older homes you might still have lead or galvanized pipes that aren’t compatible with the existing infrastructure.

What Does it Cost?

The water meter upgrade is essentially free for the homeowner, although any costs associated with upgrading your water service installation are for your own account. The new meters, which collect and transmit the data remotely, take around 90 minutes to install. If you don’t upgrade, however, you risk incurring not only the fine but also a cost of $80 per meter reading or a fee of $1,020 per year for fixed-rate customers.

It simply isn’t worth the risk to avoid installation. If you want to determine whether you’re going to have to budget for any other costs, schedule a plumbing inspection ahead of your installation appointment.