Mississauga became the first Canadian city to install the Spartan, a newly designed water theft-resistant fire hydrant, this week.
When compared to traditional fire hydrants, the Spartan uses a shielded operating nut to make it difficult for water thieves to steal water.
Its ability to help combat water theft was one of the main reasons the Region of Peel was drawn to the hydrant and decided to pilot it at the Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services training facility.
"We take water theft very seriously, and when we see a product that is offering a deterrent to such events, we want to give it a test and see how it fares out," said Jake Sonin, a water distribution foreperson with the Region of Peel.
Millions of litres of water stolen across GTA
Peel region is just one of the many municipalities within the Greater Toronto Area that's combating water theft. The GTA has seen millions of litres of water stolen from fire hydrants in recent years.
The Region of Durham says 672,170 cubic metres of water — the equivalent of about 270 Olympic-size swimming pools — was illegally pumped from its hydrants in 2016, which cost the city $60,000 in lost water fees.
The City of Markham received just five reports of water theft in 2016, but it estimates that annual losses are closer to $30,000.
Since 2009, 29 companies in Durham have been convicted of water theft. So far in 2017, Durham has caught three thieves in the act, but the region suspects many more go undetected.
The thefts can also cause problems in emergencies. Thefts may make hydrants freeze in winter, which means firefighters can't use them.
In addition to curbing water thefts, the Spartan hydrant may also be able to save municipalities money in other ways.
Creator of the Spartan, retired firefighter George Sigelakis, says fire hydrants that are used too much also break down because of too much stress and have a reputation for being problematic.
"They're made of steel and iron in a water environment," Sigelakis says. "If you don't use them enough, they seize up and rust."
The Spartan uses a stainless steel stem, brass, and anodized aluminum pumper caps to make it more durable and secure when compared to other hydrants.
Sigelakis was inspired to create the hydrant because he lost colleagues due to faulty hydrants during his career. He believes his hydrant is also easier to access and safer for firefighters.
"It's great for the taxpayer, it's great for saving water and it's great for saving lives, and it's great for insurance companies and everybody else," Sigelakis says.