Toronto is a city built on a lake that contains about 1640 cubic kilometers of water.
Lake Ontario is the city’s primary source of water and residents use nearly a billion litres each day, according to data from the city of Toronto.
Torontonians consumed just over 951,000 litres of water on November 13, 2014. We hit an annual high back on June 17 when residents used almost 1.3 billion liters of water.
To put that in some perspective, 1.3 billion litres of water would fill more than 40,000 average sized backyard swimming pools.
To date, Toronto homes and businesses have consumed about 317 billion litres of water – delivered through thousands of kilometers of water mains. Stretch that pipe end to end and it would reach from Toronto to Glasgow, Scotland. The pipes are one part of $28 billion in water infrastructure managed by the city.
And when they break – things get messy.
There are about 1,100 water main breaks each year.
And 2014 is shaping up to be one of the worst in recent years. Year to date, city staff estimate there have been approximately 1,400 breaks. That’s already more than the 1,095 we had in 2012 and it’s flirting with the 1,500 breaks in 2013.
That number will pick up now that we’re getting back into the colder weather as the fluctuating temperatures can cause pipes to burst.
A map displaying the locations of water main breaks in Toronto between 1990 and 2013 shows the hardest hit areas appear to be the newer parts of Toronto. That would be counter intuitive. You might assume the most breaks would happen in the old part of the city where the infrastructure is older.
But not all water mains are created equally. The newer pipes are thinner than the Victorian era water mains. City staff says they break more often in North York and Etobicoke because the soil is more corrosive in those areas of town.
The cost of water went up in January of 2014 by nine per cent. That might sound like a lot until you consider that $0.01 buys you more than three litres of tap water. Compare that to the $1.50 you might pay for 330ml of bottled water. That $1.50 would buy you 500 litres of water through the tap – enough to fill more than 1,500 330ml bottles.