What better way to celebrate World Water Day on March 22 than by learning more about Greater Sudbury’s water distribution system? Sign up for free tours at the water and wastewater treatment plants with a group or a class.
Did you know that the City of Greater Sudbury has a network of 800 km of sanitary sewer and 1000 km of watermain pipes? Each of those systems have a greater distance than driving to Toronto and back!
Climate Change Mitigation: Did you know that processing, distributing and collecting water and wastewater uses more electricity than any other municipal operation? We have a goal to be a net-zero community by 2050 and making our water distribution system more efficient is an important part of our plan.
Climate Change Adaptation: Did you know that our climate and weather is changing, and the amount of annual precipitation has increased over the past 30 years? You can look at historical data from Greater Sudbury on the Climate Atlas page. With more precipitation and heavier rainfalls, we must be better prepared to manage all that water.
What happens when our water distribution system is leaking?
Dealing with leaky pipes is a common part of owning a home, and just like our home, the City’s water distribution system is also subject to leaks and breaks. Leaking water distribution systems are a global problem that continues to gain attention because of water shortages and climate change. There are many reasons why a water distribution system may experience leaks and breaks, including:
- Aging infrastructure
- Pressure surges
- Ground and soil movement
- Ground vibrations caused by construction or earthquakes.
Why is it important to manage leaks and breaks in the distribution system?
The City’s water distribution system has limited capacity for the amount of water that can be processed and distributed. As our community grows and the need for water increases, the City must ensure we have sufficient capacity to match this growing demand. While it is possible to expand the water distribution system, this would come at a high initial and ongoing cost to the community.
Processing, distributing and collecting water and wastewater uses more energy than any other municipal operation. Therefore, operating the water distribution system as efficiently as possible will help reduce leaks and unnecessary energy use, as well as delay or even potentially eliminate the need to expand the water distribution system. Energy savings help our community move closer to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 - the goal of the Community Energy and Emissions Plan (CEEP).
Learn how you can reduce inflow and infiltration in the wastewater system.
City initiatives to reduce leaks
How do we find something we can’t see? There are many tools and techniques used to find leaks in our water distribution system. City operators use sound devices on metallic pipes to hear leaks, similar to when you turn on the water in a home and hear the old pipes creak. Last fall, this type of technology was placed in hydrant caps connected to metallic watermains to scan for the sounds of leaks. By the first week of December, a leak was found and repaired.
The City has many large pumps at water/wastewater treatment plants and booster stations that can send pressure waves through the distribution system as they turn on and off. These pressure waves can cause leaks in some weak areas of the system. Treating our water distribution system more gently wherever possible helps minimize leaks. Studies of the City’s water distribution system have led to upgrades and design recommendations to minimize pressure waves.
The City has conducted many other studies and projects that, combined, have led to the discovery of substantial leaks within our water distribution system. One notable example is the award-winning Mobile District Metering Project that allowed the City to find leaks in one neighbourhood.
Water Meter Upgrades
The City is working on a multi-year project to replace and upgrade the water meters in every home and business. Water meters measure the amount of water entering a home. They’re usually found in the basement, near the main water shut-off valve and have a typical life cycle of 15 to 20 years. The new water meter technology offers many benefits to homeowners.
The Advanced Meter Infrastructure (AMI) project and the new technology connects your water meter to outdoor transmitters that send wireless readings directly to Greater Sudbury Utilities. This allows the City to compare the volume of water distributed from all water treatment facilities to the amount of water consumed by customers, giving City staff a more accurate understanding of the total water losses in the system in real time.
If you have an upgraded water meter, you can get detailed information about your water usage through the GSU online customer service portal. This new technology provides more reliable and timely data, allows tracking and planning for future water usage, and improves the accuracy of water readings.
It is also designed to more quickly alert residents to possible leaks in their homes, which helps reduce water waste and keep your water bills lower.
Discover other ways that you can help minimize water waste and protect our municipal water distribution system.
What Can You Do?
To avoid overloading the wastewater treatment system:
Disconnect from sanitary sewer system. Disconnect any rain gutter downspouts, weeping tiles and sump pit drainage systems that drain directly into the sanitary sewer system. Direct connections to sewers were previously acceptable, but now our wastewater treatment system serves more customers and additional rainwater can overload sanitary sewer pipes and treatment systems, increasing the risk of flooded basements and overflows.
Install preventative plumbing devices. Rain barrels, eavestrough extensions or sump pump drainage systems can help prevent flooding or sewer backups in homes. The Residential Inflow and Infiltration Subsidy Program (RIISP) provides financial assistance to residential property owners by partially reimbursing costs associated with installing one or more of the approved plumbing solutions covered by RIISP.
RIISP Subsidy Amounts (greatersudbury.ca)
Avoid flushing items that can’t be processed properly. Remember that our sewer system is not a garbage. Flushing Fats, Oils or Grease (F.O.G.) products, toiletries and chemicals down your home’s drains should never be a means of disposal. Here are some examples of things to never introduce to sewer pipes:
- Facial tissues
- Feminine hygiene products
- Cotton swabs
- Dental floss
- Cleaning solvents
- Pool chemicals
- Paints, stains or varnishes
- Paint thinners/strippers
The improper disposal of products can have detrimental effects to our distribution system and to local water systems and aquatic life.
Use the 4R principles. Try to incorporate the 4R principles for water efficiency into your daily routines:
- Reduce overall water usage.
- Reuse non-potable water around your home as much as possible.
- Repair leaks in your home.
- Replace faulty appliances and fixtures.
For more information, visit the City’s website
If you have a project that you’d like the City to highlight, contact Jennifer Babin-Fenske at [email protected]