Some say that electricity is the most important element of civilization. While it would be no piece of cake to do without flip-of-the-switch power, it can be (and has been) done. The real keystone to humanity’s success has always been the delivery of water through a municipal system. The Romans, who built a network of 11 aqueducts over a 500-year period, are generally credited with having the best system (although the Persians and Assyrians came up with idea hundreds of years before the Romans). Some of Rome’s ancient aqueducts are still in use today.
Ontario first began supplying water, for private use in putting out fires, through a system of underground pipes in 1837. By 1873 this had become a larger operation meant to provide water delivery to homes in Toronto. By the turn of the century, there were 110 separately operated waterworks in the city. Wastewater treatment followed, although not as quickly as some Canadians might have preferred, with 70 municipalities having sewer lines in the afterglow of World War I.
By the 1940s, many water companies gladly turned their operations over to municipal governments, which in turn began charging fees to residents for water and sewer services, starting in 1953. Shortly thereafter, the federal government assumed responsibility for providing and maintaining water supplies, which they did until 1997, when the underground water and sewer systems were passed along to regional and municipal governments, along with all the titles involved.
Virtually all who live in Ontario today have long since had running water in their homes, and roughly 80 percent are hooked up to city sewers lines, with the rest to follow at about the same rate as the dilapidation of their septic tanks. The engineering and design that have gone into Ontario’s water system, particularly in Toronto, rivals that of some of the greatest cities in the world, thanks to tireless innovation and adherence to proven guidelines and methodologies. All Canadians can drink to that.