An aerial view of one of the temporary shafts used to excavate Enwave's chilled water distribution tunnels.

For most of the second half of the last decade, the view from many of the condos and offices near Bay and College Streets in Toronto included the tantalizing hole depicted above. Approximately 15 m in diameter, this access shaft was nearly invisible at ground level, hidden as it was behind shrouded construction fencing and safety/reinforcing structures around the hole itself. A few photographs taken from the surrounding buildings eventually showed up online, but the fact that this large-scale, multi-leveled excavation project (and its three other construction shafts) went almost entirely unremarked on for five or six years is surprising.

For most of the second half of the last decade, the view from many of the condos and offices near Bay and College Streets in Toronto included the tantalizing hole depicted above. Approximately 15 m in diameter, this access shaft was nearly invisible at ground level, hidden as it was behind shrouded construction fencing and safety/reinforcing structures around the hole itself.

Not a sewer: This is actually another nearby shaft that connects two levels of the Enwave system, but a similar view would be found at the bottom of the access shaft that two men were alleged to have emerged from in the early morning of June 27th, during the G20 summit in Toronto.
An incident during the G20 Summit in Toronto was universally reported in the media as involving the city's sewer system, when it actually appears to have involved the little-known distribution tunnels for Enwave's Deep Lake Water Cooling system. While media reports trumpeted this story as another instance of "infrastructure vulnerability" and relished the spectre of "anarchists in the sewers," I question the idea that this infrastructure presents a physical vulnerability, and more importantly I argue that the incident highlights the failure of physical service providers' reliance on secrecy and obscurity to maintain the security of their infrastructure. Instead, in this piece I want to begin to advance an argument that openness about our urban infrastructure is a key prerequisite for its security.

Like tens of thousands of other Toronto residents, I spent part of the weekend of the G20 summit out in the streets of our city, and the rest of it glued to television and online news coverage of what was happening in the streets.

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Michael Cook is available to speak to your organization about infrastructure history, lost creeks, current conditions, and opportunities for change in our management of and communication about urban watersheds, and to work with teams proposing or implementing such change. Get in touch.