Dan McKinnon pegs the value of Hamilton’s water infrastructure at north of $4-billion. Each part of that infrastructure has a lifespan of roughly 50 years.
To keep clean water flowing, the city needs to replace about two per cent of the system each year, McKinnon said.Dan McKinnon, Hamilton Water director, pegs the value of Hamilton’s water infrastructure at north of $4-billion. (Megan Thomas/CBC)
“It’s more money than we are spending right now,” he said. “I don’t think we are anywhere close to what we would call a sustainable level just yet.”
The cost of upgrading aging water pipes, pump houses and treatment stations is on the minds of those in the municipal water business as the world celebrates United Nations World Water Day, an event meant to highlight the importance of fresh, safe water.
Water bills in Hamilton have jumped by 4.25 per cent this year – about $24 a month for the average household. With major upgrade costs on the horizon, residents should expect bills to continue rising, said McKinnon.
“This infrastructure is buried, it’s not visible to people. It’s not in their consciousness all the time,” he said. “They really do need to have a little more patience for the increases that they are inevitably going to pay.”
The theme for this year’s UN World Water Day is cooperation around water – something well illustrated by Hamilton’s water history.The original steam engine that pumped water from Lake Ontario to the Hamilton has been preserved inside the Museum of Steam and Technology. (Megan Thomas/CBC)
Hamilton’s water system was one of the first publicly run systems in the country, and it was an engineering marvel at the time, said Nancy Prochuck, a historical interpreter at Hamilton’s Museum of Steam and Technology.
“It’s a cathedral to Hamilton’s look towards the future and being at the forefront of technology and industry,” she said.
The original steam engine that pumped water from Lake Ontario to the city has been preserved inside the heritage site and is the only remaining machine of its kind in North America.
The basic principals of the water system are not that different today, McKinnon said. It's a similar system, just with added technology and safety.
But he adds that the city has to be careful not to rely on a history of cutting-edge water infrastructure.
“People become complacent because it works day after day, every time they go to the tap it works, and every time they flush the toilet it goes away somewhere,” he said.