In Canada's largest city, raw sewage flows into Lake Ontario so often, Toronto tells people they should never swim off the city's beaches for least two days after it rains. Across the country in Mission, B.C., a three-decade-old pipe that carries sewage under the Fraser River to a treatment plant in Abbotsford is so loaded operators can't even slip a camera inside it to look for damage. If that pipe bursts, it will dump 11 million litres of putrid water from area homes and businesses into a critical salmon habitat every day it isn't fixed.
No Canadian pays for water – not citizens, farmers or industry. Under NAFTA first – and now the USMCA – if the government starts selling water, it becomes an exportable product, which is widely recognized as a very bad idea. What does cost money is the use of water infrastructure: things such as pipes, testing and labour. Large industrial users are charged more than residents for the privilege, but the amount collected from commercial water bottlers in Ontario has long been criticized as ridiculously low. Until 2017, the administrative fee was just $3.71 for every million litres. The provincial government now charges $503.71 for that amount.