Hate winter? The people who take care of Toronto’s 5,000 km of pipes agree

Hate winter? The people who take care of Toronto’s 5,000 km of pipes agree

A busted water main (Image: Gary J. Wood) 

Here’s a surprisingly interesting story from the National Post about plumbing—no, seriously! Basically, the winter of 2010–11 has been unusually punishing for Toronto’s water mains, with a 50 per cent spike in burst mains across the city thanks to the combination of a) harsher colds, and b) the more recent see-sawing between freezing and thawing. There have been over 750 burst mains in the first two months of this year, but we were a little more shocked to learn that in a normal year there are still over 500. Some other fun plumbing facts about Toronto, after the jump.

Suck it, suburbs: The downtown core’s plumbing is the oldest, so it should be the most prone to failure, right? Wrong. The oldest pipes in Toronto are older than this country and are made of thick cast iron. The thinner pipes built since WWII—largely in the inner ’burbs—are most prone to failure.

It’s not the water company’s fault: Apparently, most main breaks can be fixed quickly if other utilities (Toronto Hydro, gas) agree to have the shared underground space dug up. It can take as little as eight hours for a main to be repaired. If things don’t go so briskly, it can take up to three soggy weeks.

Things are getting better: The city has embarked on a massive, $100-million-plus project to identify rupture “hot spots” and either patch them or replace them with new plastic piping. While “plastic piping” may not sound like a massive improvement, we assume this is some thicker, sturdier stuff. Or at least we hope.

Between this piece and the recent spate of stories about how Toronto Hydro and the TTC keep electrocuting animals, we’re living an infrastructure nerd’s dream. Now someone do a feature about natural gas companies and we’ll have a trifecta.

• Pipe nightmares: Spring can’t come soon enough for city’s water department [National Post]