Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.

Benjamin Franklin

Undetected water leaks can very quickly become your worst nightmare. The smallest of leaks can waste an amazing amount of water. It all adds up to shocking costs, causes stunning damages to your home, and potentially, generates huge bills from the public utility commission for this excessive consumption.

A few signs of a uncontrolled leak include: suddenly reduced water pressure, a constantly running toilet, and the drip, drip, drip of a sink facet.

The single biggest reveal of water leak is the arrival of the water bill from the local utility. Water is expensive and if the leak is someplace within your home past the water meter, then you will be billed for the loss, even if unintentional.

The Lost Art of DYI

A recent poll of 2,000 adults under the age of 31 years old found that, despite an increase in fixing up home properties in recent months, three quarters still are not confident in their maintenance skills – and a third turn to their parents for help.

Three in 10 admit they cannot do any basic home repair tasks, with the average adult only starting to feel confident in their skills once they reach their thirties.

The study also found those polled were aged 24 before they first attempted a maintenance job, with only 12 per cent taught any form of maintenance skills at school.

Half have tried to teach themselves home repairs ‘out of necessity’ and more than one in five do not try at all, relying on a qualified professional.

One in four adults admitted they have no clue on how to read an energy meter and almost half could not unblock a clogged drain.

Almost two thirds (65 per cent) have no idea how to fix a leaking tap, more than six in 10 have no knowledge of how to start the hot water tank, and 53 per cent do not know how to fit a smoke alarm to their ceilings.

Our younger generation are seriously lacking in the do-it-yourself (DYI) skills that the older generation learned at a younger age. In this consumer mad world, people simply replace devices and trash unused or slightly broken technology. So, when it comes to the physical world of fresh water supply that demands sound mechanical skills focused on soldering copper pipes, repairing toilet stoppers, and replacing rubber gaskets in taps, we are in serious trouble. Yet, the repercussions from these simple home repairs can costs thousands of dollars if left unattended.

Too Old to DYI

With the elderly and senior demographic cohorts, such as The Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers, who are all getting too old now, we have a similar issue regarding fixing dripping water leaks. However, in their case, it is not due to the lack of knowledge, but more because they simply lack the dexterity and physical abilities to effectively make home water repairs.

Why is it this Way?

Now, finding a qualified professional to help either the younger or older generations is fast becoming yet another serious society problem in Canada.

We are a computer technology driven culture. People are simply not being trained anymore for physical work. The few qualified repair craftspeople available are heavily sought after. The significant demands place a huge burden upon their schedules. The demand also increases the price per hour when you can find someone to help.

The first step is to identify that you have a problem with a water leak. Then, we need to locate it. Next, you isolate it. Finally, it needs to be properly corrected it. The longer it takes to step through this process, the more costly it can be in exorbitant water bills and damages to the home.

Shocking Bills

Just this week CTV News reported that a family that helps look after their father, a veteran of the Second World War, was shocked to know a running toilet caused a water bill of $6,433.

John Royce is now 97 years old, but as a younger man he was active in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the WWII. He now lives in his own home in Kleinberg, Ont. but needs personal support workers with him most of the time.

“To me these are extenuating circumstances,” Richard Royce, John’s son, told CTV News Toronto. “It’s a 97 year old veteran of WWII and this bill is exorbitant.” 

Richard Royce said his father needs help 24-hours a day and seven days a week and added “our main objective here is to keep the man comfortable and safe.”

Richard Royce said the family had no idea there was an issue with a running toilet that had gone undetected for months. 

John Royce’s September and October water bills totaled $6,433. The family didn’t notice right away because the bills are paid using an automatic payment plan with the utility. 

“Unfortunately because he is so trusting and it’s an automatic withdrawal we didn’t catch it as quickly as we could,” Richard Royce said.

Richard Royce tried to resolve this excessive but accurate bill with the local utility, but to no avail. Ultimately, the local mayor agreed to intervene and took the matter to city council who voted to help the senior in this case. As well, the council will look for ways to address these kind of water leak issues going forward.

What’s Next?

So, there are a few lessons here.

First, the younger generation, and Canada in general, needs more qualified craftspeople.

Second, we need to train all Canadians not to be a disposable society and investigate how to DYI at home. Repairs can be very rewarding with some basic training.

Third, with COVID still raging in Canada, there is a need for online virtual training courses in home repair. You can only go so far watching 20 to 30 YouTube video clips.

Fourth, if the elderly are staying in their homes longer, we need to provision new support services for the home, as well as for the people, both need help.

And finally, we need to learn to quickly identify problems, and remedy them effectively. This can be done very well if utilities install smart water meters that connect seamlessly to cloud computing equipped with artificial intelligence to observe trends, patterns, and anomalies and then dispatch technicians expediently while using automation to remotely curtail water leaks until help can arrive.

The application of smart meters with edge computing running simple subroutines of analytics that set the thresholds for the average consumption of water for that home is needed. These systems will watch the flows vigilantly and report any aberrations back to the cloud via real-time Internet of Things (IoT) connections. In the cloud, artificial intelligence will make key decisions and then direct actuators in collaboration with in-home sensors to close off and stem the uncontrolled flows to prevent loss and damage. Yet, these smart systems still need to be clever enough to allow desired flows to continue unabated.

Big data will be harvested to the cloud so as to paint a data visualization picture for the Utility of their entire end to end supply system. With larger meters and sensors strategically placed on the water mains and elsewhere in the water distribution piping, a holistic view can be had that shows any ruptures or breaks before the home too.

The New Paradigm

There is a new business opportunity model rapidly emerging here to allow people to live in their homes longer. The same goes for the under 30 home owners who also desperately need help to effect fixes. The companies that embrace this opportunity can certainly make a lot of money if it is all captured with automation, A.I, and skilled craftspeople. The provisioning of virtualized DYI training skills can come from colleges and private trainers. Here, it can be argued that Canadian Tire, Rona, and Home Depot can step in.

In fact, this may be the catalyst needed to see the return of the local hardware store instead of the classic big box chains? I always loved going to the local hardware store as a kid. The rich aromas when inside the neighbourhood hardware store are still vividly fresh in my mind. If local hardware stores reemerged with a skilled labour pool, who can be dispatched fast, and small online training school, and all of the parts necessary to fix leaks, then I see the return of local workforces ready to fill this huge need.

Leaks are costly, damaging, and expensive. If Canada ever wants to get to the point whereby 100% of water consumption is properly billed by the Utility and not subsidized by ratepayer’s taxes, we will need skilled workers, a local service provider network, and a metered water distribution system right to the endpoint.

————————–MJM ————————–


Bakht, S. (2020). CLUELESS: Most Brits admit they are hopeless at DIY with no idea how to fix a leaking tap, fit a smoke alarm or unblock a drain. The Sun, News Group Newspapers Limited. Retrieved on November 14, 2020 from,

Foran, P. (2020). Family of elderly Ontario man shocked after running toilet leads to $6,433 water bill. CTV News Toronto, Bell Media. Retrieved on November 14, 2020 from,

————————–MJM ————————–

About the Author:

Michael Martin is the Vice President of Technology with Metercor Inc., a Smart Meter, IoT, and Smart City systems integrator based in Canada. He has more than 35 years of experience in systems design for applications that use broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless, and digital communications technologies. He is a business and technology consultant. He was senior executive consultant for 15 years with IBM, where he has worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He is a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN: TSX). Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO: TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX: TSX.V).  He has served as a Member, SCC ISO-IEC JTC 1/SC-41 – Internet of Things and related technologies, ISO – International Organization for Standardization, and as a member of the NIST SP 500-325 Fog Computing Conceptual Model, National Institute of Standards and Technology. He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) [now OntarioTech University] and on the Board of Advisers of five different Colleges in Ontario.  For 16 years he served on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section.  He holds three master’s degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has three undergraduate diplomas and five certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology. He has earned 20 badges in next generation MOOC continuous education in IoT, Cloud, AI and Cognitive systems, Blockchain, Agile, Big Data, Design Thinking, Security, and more.