We’re fortunate to have drinkable water available at the tap in our homes, but have you ever thought about the process each drop of water flows through before it reaches our taps?

Water treatment is a complicated and costly process. By collectively reducing the amount of water we use as a community, we can save money by reducing treatment costs, reserving treatment plant capacity, extending life of underground infrastructure, and limiting opportunities for untreated or partially treated wastewater to be discharged back to the St. Lawrence River.

A Water Graph

In 2021, the City of Cornwall commissioned the development of a Water Conservation and Servicing Master Plan with the primary goal of establishing a community water conservation program, as well as identifying necessary actions for sustainable management of our community water and wastewater resources.

Additional objectives of the Master Plan were to increase community awareness, to gain public support for water demand management, to develop volume-based metered water and wastewater rates to provide a sustainable revenue source, and to develop draft rebate and incentive programs. At a special meeting on September 21, 2021, Council approved the Water Conservation and Servicing Master Plan. Within this plan is commendation to implement a universal smart water metering system.

In August 2022, City Council awarded a contract to Diameter Services Inc. to design, procure, and manage the implementation of universal water metering across the community. On June 26, 2023, Council accepted a Findings and Recommendations Report and Financial Report which detailed the design and estimated costs of the project.

Water Conservation and Servicing Master Plan

Findings and Recommendations Report

Financial Report

Saving Water at Home 

Conserving water at home is easy! Below are some quick tips to reduce your own consumption:

  • Regularly check for leaks in your home and make repairs when necessary.
  • Turn the tap off when brushing your teeth.
  • Only run dishwashers or laundry machines for full loads.
  • Take shorter showers–the average shower length is 8 minutes.
  • Install low flush or dual flush toilets or follow the adage “if it’s yellow, let it mellow”.


A toilet graphic

Did you know that flushing the toilet accounts for approximately 24% of daily residential water-use? While modern toilets use an average of 6 litres of water per flush, older models use up to 25 litres per flush!

The average person flushes the toilet 5 times per day—this means up to 125 L of water could be used by one person in a single day just to flush the toilet.

In 2022, the City of Cornwall launched a Toilet Rebate Program to incentivize residents to replace their high volume flush toilets with efficient, WaterSense© certified models.

Learn more here


The amount of water used by the community each day increases during the summer months as more water is used for landscaping and lawn/property maintenance. Here are a few tips to use water more efficiently while still maintaining curb appeal:

  • Water your lawn in the early morning or late afternoon to limit evaporation.
  • Adjust sprinklers so only your lawn is watered and not the house, sidewalk, or street.
  • Use a broom to keep your driveway clean rather than a hose.
  • Use a barrel to collect rainwater for gardening and other outdoor use.
  • Apply mulch to your garden to help retain soil moisture.


Water Meters

Currently, all residences and the majority of businesses in the city pay a flat rate for water. This flat rate is calculated based on the number of water-using fixtures (faucets, toilets, showers, etc.) on the property. The implementation of a universal metering system means that all water service connections throughout the city (both residential and non-residential) will be equipped with a meter, and all users will then pay for the water on a volumetric basis. This is the same billing model used by other local utilities (electricity and natural gas).

A consumption-based billing model is found to be the most equitable and is the best option for promoting efficient water use as users are incentivized to use less. While this model still includes a base rate, it gives consumers power to control the consumptive portion of their water bill by modifying their behaviour. Currently, Cornwall is one of the only municipalities of comparable size in Ontario that does not provide potable water on a metered basis.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where does Cornwall’s water come from?

There are two ways to supply your home with water: through a well, or through the municipal water system. If you live within Cornwall city limits, you’re on the municipal supply. Water is drawn from the St. Lawrence River, then treated to remove any bacteria, debris, or other contaminants so that it is safe to drink. Following treatment, it passes through a network of underground pipes which deliver quality drinking water to your home.

Who uses the Municipal water supply?

The Municipal water supply services both residential and non-residential customers. Non-residential customers include industrial, commercial, institutional, and wholesale users.

How are costs of the water system currently recovered?

Since the Municipal water system was implemented, users have paid a “flat rate” for water and wastewater service. Bills are calculated based on the number of water-using fixtures on the property. This includes sinks, toilets, showers, pools, outdoor faucets and more. Under this model, users pay a fixed amount on their water and sewer bill regardless of how much water is used. Under a flat rate model, there is no financial incentive for residents or businesses to be mindful about how much water they use, or to perform necessary repairs to use less water. In turn, the added costs associated with treating excess water is distributed among all users of the system.

What is the Universal Water Metering Project

In 2021, the city commissioned the development of a Water Conservation and Servicing Master Plan. One of the recommendations in the Master Plan is to implement universal water metering at all water service connections in the city.

In August 2022, City Council awarded a contract to Diameter Services Inc. to design, procure, and manage the implementation of universal water metering across the community. On June 26, 2023, Council accepted a Findings and Recommendations Report and Financial Report which detailed the design and estimated costs of the project. 

What is a water meter?

A water meter is a device installed next to the main water shutoff for your property. The type of water meter to be installed is selected based on location, flow volume, chemistry of the water supply, and other factors. These meters accurately measure how much water passes through the water service pipe, which supplies water to all fixtures on the property.

How will users benefit from a water meter?

Water meters are an essential tool for users to understand how much water they use. They also help users identify silent leaks at their property.

What will this mean for future water bills?

The cost of operating water utilities in North America is rising much faster than any other utility. This is because the costs associated with maintaining facilities and treating water are also on the rise. The easiest way to avoid unnecessary water and wastewater treatment costs, is to reduce the volume of water we use. First, we must be able to measure how much water we use and for what purposes. 

Following the installation of meters, water bills will be comprised of two portions. The first is a base rate that will provide a base revenue for the utility. The second portion will reflect the volume of water consumed.

Do some users already have water meters?

In 2008, the City of Cornwall launched a Voluntary Water Meter Program. This included the installation of approximately 1,800 residential, and roughly 1,000 non-residential water meters. These meters have exceeded their useful life and will be replaced as part of the Universal Water Metering Project.

When will water meters be installed?

This is a big project, and full implementation will take some time. The goal is for installations to start in the spring of 2024 and for the project to be complete by the end of 2026. All users will be billed on a metered rate starting in 2027.

Who will be involved in the implementation?

The implementation of a universal water metering program will be a team effort between the City, the project Consultant, and the Contractor.

The City of Cornwall is the “Owner” that recognizes the need for the project and provides funding. The City of Cornwall represents the taxpayers’ best interest and selects projects based on maintaining or improving levels of service within the City. A “Consultant” is hired by the Owner when they don’t have the appropriate expertise in-house. The Owner provides the Consultant with the project parameters, and the Consultant’s task is to design a solution for the Owner. The Consultant specializes in the respective project field which ultimately provides technical, financial, and scheduling efficiencies. The “Contractor” is hired to implement and construct the approved design under the supervision of both the Consultant and the Owner. The Contractor also specializes in the respective project field. The Owner, Consultant and Contractor work closely throughout the entire duration of the project. The relationship with the three ensures that all parties are held accountable, and the highest quality of work is achieved.

How will I know how much my future bill will be?

Once water meters are installed, bills will reflect the amount of water used. To make the transition as seamless as possible, the City intends to have a 6-month mock billing period for all users. This means that users will be informed of their exact water use and how much the bill associated with that volume of usage will be in advance of adopting the new payment model. In addition, the City will increase billing frequency from semi-annual to bi-monthly so bills are smaller and more digestible for the average user.

How much water do you use? Could you be using less?

The first step to reducing your water use is to be aware of where you use water and how much you’re using. A household water audit is an assessment of where and how much water is being used in your home. Gaining this knowledge will help you identify simple ways to save water in your home. Your water meter will be a useful tool to help you better understand and manage your water consumption. In addition, the City will offer a Customer Portal that will allow users to see how much water they are using each hour of the day.

Will the City offer any rebates and incentives?

Council committed $100,000 towards community toilet rebates and home water use audit programs to help residents lower their consumption prior to transitioning to volume-based billing. More details can be found below.

The implementation of water meters will provide several benefits to the community:

 Benefits to property owners

Smart water meter systems help users understand much water they are using and provide daily use summaries to the user through an online portal. Users can also choose to be notified of abnormal water usage by email or text message notifications.

Common notifications for increased water usage reflect increased usage at night when most people would be asleep. This is usually the result of a tap that wasn’t closed tightly or a running toilet. Investigating the root of these notifications is a quick and easy way to conserve water!

Installing water meters across the City will also allow the City to charge water and wastewater rates that are based on the amount of water consumed. This type of rate structure allows all users to be billed more fairly for the water they use. Users will be able to influence the consumptive portion of their water bill simply by being more conscious about the water they use.

 Benefits to the City

The installation of smart water meters will improve the City’s ability to find leaks in the water pipes under the ground. Finding and repairing these leaks as quickly as possible provides operating cost savings that are ultimately passed on to the customer and rate payer.

The early detection of leaks in the system saves money by reducing the amount of water that must be produced. In addition, the cost of repairing leaks soon after they occur are typically less expensive than doing so when the problem persists over time leading to greater damage and repair costs.

Water meter readings will be sent automatically to the water accounts department using wireless technology like sending a text message. All the readings from the smart water meters in homes and businesses and other smart meters installed throughout the system will be combined with water production readings.

Although this may seem like a complicated process, the City would simply add up all the readings from the smart water meters and compare it to the amount of water produced at the Water Purification Plant.

If the plant made more water than homes or businesses used, then crews are sent out to find and repair the leaks. In addition to saving money, having the ability to find leaks quickly allows for the repairs to be scheduled at a time when shutting off the water will be of minimal inconvenience to property owners.

Water Conservation Rebates and Incentives

Toilet Rebate Program

To promote residential water conservation and efficiency, the City of Cornwall has developed a rebate program for residents who replace high-flow toilets (13L per flush or more), with WaterSense® certified low-flow toilets. To learn more about the program, click here.

Residential Water-use Audits

To help residents identify where they use water and highlight opportunities to reduce their water-use, the City has contracted the St. Lawrence River Institute to offer FREE residential water-use audits.

To sign up to the program online, click here.

To print the sign-up form and submit by mail, click here

 Non-Residential Facility Audit and Rebates
The City is investigating opportunities to support the non-residential sector to incentivize retrofitting equipment to improve water efficiency.
Subsidized Rain Barrels

In April 2023, City staff coordinated a local Rain Barrel Sale for residents through rainbarrel.ca. The use of rain barrels enables residents to collect rainwater for non-potable use on their property, reducing demand on the treated water supply. The supplied rain barrels are constructed from used food canisters, saving them from the landfill and supporting a circular economy.

While we’re on the topic…

Make sure water is the only thing going down your drain. Never put garbage down your sink-such as cooking fat and grease, paints, solvents, household cleaners, pesticides, and other chemicals that are very harmful to the environment and your home plumbing.

What to flush graphic

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