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.

Read the Report here

Conserving 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) would be equipped with a meter, and everyone would then pay for the water on a volumetric basis. This is the same billing model used by other utilities.

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 in Ontario that does not provide potable water on a metered basis.

As part of the development of the Master Plan, public engagement sessions were held to gather public opinion of alternative water and wastewater billing rates and water conservation incentive and rebate programs.
One of the main themes that surfaced was public concern that water and wastewater bills would increase with the installation of a meter. In response, the City launched a water and wastewater bill calculator for residents to calculate how their bill should change.
While heavy water users might see an increase in their bill, average and conservative water users should expect to see a decrease or very little change in what they pay for water and wastewater services.
In addition, 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.

As part of these audits, a River Institute staff member will visit your home at a time convenient for you. They will walk through your home with you looking and listening for leaks. This usually includes entering your kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, and any other room with a water supply. They will share tips with you to use less water and answer any questions you may have about using water at home.

Your privacy is the top priority during these audits. If you are not comfortable with the auditor entering any portion of your home, that is completely up to you. The auditor is solely there to help you identify opportunities to save water and will not take note or comment on any activities happening in your home. 

The auditor will complete a brief report while on site, which will identify which topics were discussed during the audit. This information will allow City staff to strengthen water conservation communication efforts with the broader community. Chances are, if you have a question, some of your neighbors likely have the same one! You can ask your auditor to review the report with you at any time.

This report will also include an order form for water-saving fixtures. The City will provide low-flow showerheads, faucet aerators, and toilet saver kits to residents who complete the water audit (while supplies last, some restrictions apply). 

Toilet Rebate Program

How might your bill change? Find out using the calculator!

Residential Water-use Audit Program

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
Rain barrels are a great way to conserve municipal water. The City is making arrangements to hold a rain barrel sale as part of Eco-Day 2023 (April 22, 2023). Check back for more details!

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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