Leaky city plumbing raises Ontario water bills by up to a third on average, new study shows

Outdated, leaking and crumbling pipes cost the average Ontario household up to a third more in monthly water bills, according to a new report from a think tank founded by a consortium of provincial construction unions and contractors.

50 and not so fantastic:

According to the report, nearly half of all water pipes in Ontario are at least half a century old, which is the average age for outages.

The study, on the state of the province’s water infrastructure, looked at problems within Ontario’s 444 municipalities and did not include Indigenous communities, who have struggled for decades with access to clean, reliable drinking water.

The 56 page report was paid for and published this month by the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario (RCCAO). It suggests that communities need more money to maintain, repair and replace outdated and leaky pipes that waste hundreds of millions of gallons of clean drinking water a day, and taxpayers tens of millions of dollars a year.

In Toronto alone, according to the study, the city has lost an estimated 103 million gallons of clean water per day over the past 15 years.

‘Huge amount of waste’

“It’s a huge amount of waste, not just in the amount of water spilled, but in the energy used to pressurize these pipes,” said Tamer El-Diraby, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Toronto. and the study. lead author.

This 2018 footage shows a collapsed section of O’Connor Street in Ottawa, due to a water main burst. (CBC)

It is not only energy and water, but also repairs and time. Between Canada and the US, the study finds that the two countries have an average of 700 water mains breaks per day, costing more than $10 billion a year to repair. A UK study estimated traffic delays from utility construction across the country at $2.3 billion each year.

Leaking pipes:

The cost of water leakage is one-tenth to one-third of the average Ontario water bill. In some municipalities, up to half of the bill was due to leaky pipes, the study said.

However, water pipe breaks are only part of the story when it comes to leakage. The study suggests that a hole in a water pipe of just 1.5 mm can waste up to 3,570 liters of water in 24 hours and costs $14.54 per day.

Toronto loses 10 to 15 percent of its total drinking water supply every year through leakage, or about 103 million liters per day. Across Ontario, according to the study, system leakage is estimated to be anywhere from 10 to 40 percent.

El-Diraby said it was too difficult to determine with any degree of accuracy which Ontario municipalities were doing better or worse in managing their water infrastructure.

Bad pipes:

The study said Chatham-Kent had most of its water infrastructure in bad or worse shape, including 37 percent that were “expired.” In Windsor, 27 percent of the plumbing is still operational, despite being ‘out of life’.

Instead, he split it up in terms of larger and smaller municipalities. While both suffer from resource shortages in managing their water systems, the problem is particularly acute in rural communities, where density is low and resources and training are minimal to operate an extensive network of aging water infrastructure. properly maintained.

“They have a double problem,” said El-Diraby. “They don’t have enough money to do the most basic analysis and they don’t have the expertise to do that analysis.”

While larger cities usually have the know-how, they lack the right funding, according to El-Diraby, who points to London, Ontario, as an example of a community blessed with a highly skilled team that gets about half the funding it needs. needs to do its job. job.

Municipalities have no money to replace old pipes oude

“They have 50 percent or less than the money they need to keep the assets in good working order. So while we’ve made big gains in the last 20 years since the days of Walkerton, with current funding levels, it’s expected that the average water quality and wastewater assets in London are going to decline.”

El-Diraby was referring to the Walkerton water crisis more than two decades ago that sparked the worst e-coli outbreak in Canada.

Toronto loses 103 million liters of drinking water per day through system leaks, enough for the daily needs of 250,000 people or to fill 15,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. (John Badcock/CBC)

According to the RCCAO report, lack of money is the most chronic problem when it comes to the state of the water infrastructure in the province.

One of the solutions would be to increase the price of water, which many municipalities are already doing. But El-Diraby points out that many city councils don’t have the will to raise prices or they would anger voters.

“We need to rethink the financing scheme. This is not a call for privatization, but a call to rethink and innovate with new ideas.”

hole mole:

A hole of just 1.5mm in a water pipe wastes 3,570 liters per day and costs $14.54, the study said. A nearly 5mm hole wastes 32,130 liters in 24 hours and costs $130.88.

He proposes that municipalities make water infrastructure part of smart city systems, so that city workers don’t have to wait until a water pipe burst occurs to repair outdated pipes, or the pressure in the water system can be used to generate energy that is used in electric vehicles.

If that doesn’t draw attention, El-Diraby suggests taxpayers could avoid paying an extra tenth to a third on their water bills if municipalities pay for repairs and replacements at the same rate.

“If the government uses the same amount, or even a fraction of it, to repair the pipes, we won’t have to raise the water price and we won’t have to raise property taxes.

“We’ll pay for the spill anyway, but it’s more efficient if we don’t spend this money on wasted water, but on repairing the water system. The return on investment will be higher.”

Comments are closed.