Millions in clean water down the drain Nana Arbova

Ontario loses a quarter of its clean water due to leaky pipes each year, according to a report by engineering professors at the University of Toronto. The independent study, funded by the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario (RCCAO), found that $700 million goes down the drain annually.

Pipes crack and fissure with time, which leads to unfathomable amounts of wasted water. Minor leaks can trickle for a long time undetected, while larger ones immediately cause huge volumes of water waste. There are many reasons for the leaks, most critically the change of temperature between seasons.

How much water is wasted in Toronto? According to the 2007 RCCAO report, 14 per cent of the City’s total water production goes into the ground. Toronto spends approximately $2 million per month to operate its extensive water distribution system.

A City official, Cheryl San Juan, said the municipal government is aware of the RCCAO study and is looking for ways to reduce waste. “We recently completed our own study on water loss reduction and it is estimated that Toronto's water loss is around 8 to 10 per cent,” she said.

San Juan added, “The city [has] undertaken a number of initiatives to reduce water loss in our system.” One of these projects is the 2012 watermain renewal plan to repair or replace damaged watermains. San Juan also mentioned the City’s ongoing campaign to replace or install new smart meters in every business and home in Toronto. Once installed, these meters will help locate leaks in the system.

Not only do broken pipes spew hundreds of thousands of litres of clean water - and consequently millions of tax dollars - into the ground annually, but the repair costs are staggering. The costs associated with leaks also fall on homeowners, who must deal with flooded basements.

Finding the money to fix these leaky pipes isn’t easy. However U of T Engineering Professor Bryan Karney said it is important not to skimp on repairs, lest the price be paid later in wasted water as poorly fixed pipes spring leaks again. “If [cities] don't have any money ... they're forced to do Band-Aids rather than proper solutions,” he told CBC.

Karney said Torontonians take their water for granted. He compared his water bill to his internet bill, which is only one-third of the charge.

If Ontario resolves its pipe problems soon, the authors of the RCCAO study claim that the City could save close to 50 per cent of the water which would otherwise be wasted this year. The province could also contain leaks by 7 to 25 per cent if it invested more in its infrastructure. If the province acts soon, the money saved can be used for the benefit of all Ontarians.

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  • Subtitle: Leaky pipes waste $700 million in drinking water each year
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