Leaky reservoir causes Arviat to use ice for water

”We’ll figure out some way to keep up with the demand”

By JANE GEORGE

The hamlet of Arviat is scrambling to find ways to conserve water and find new sources of drinking water.

To lessen the demand for trucked water, hamlet officials have decided going back to an old-fashioned method of supplying drinking water: cutting ice.

“People in this town, they actually prefer ice for drinking water. We quit hauling ice a few years ago, and people have been bugging us to start up again,” mayor Bob Leonard told Nunatsiaq News on March 1.

Even with this measure, the water left in the reservoir could run out by the middle of May.

That’s because the main reservoir that supplies water to the Nunavut community of 2,300 sprang a leak late last year.

Now water is being pumped out of its smaller, intact reservoir cell— but this source of water could run out by mid-May, said a Feb. 25 hamlet update on the water crisis in the community.

Local officials want to reduce water consumption in Arviat by about a third.

The hamlet has started to cut fresh water ice out of a Wolf Creek and bring it into town to four distribution spots where Arviatmiut may take home the fresh ice to use for drinking water.

“People are welcome to use as much of this ice as they want, and we’ll figure out some way to keep up with the demand,” said the hamlet update.

Members of Canadian armed forces from 38 Canadian Brigade Group, who arrived in the community by snowmobile from Churchill late last week— and then couldn’t leave the community due to a blizzard, also lent a hand to the ice-cutting efforts.

Ice for home use should be ready by later this week, Leonard said.

Due to poor weather, the plan to cut ice has suffered some delays, he said.

“The weather has been terrible,” he said.

Even when the ice is ready for distribution, the hamlet will continue to deliver what remains of the reservoir water to restaurants, the health centre, the elders’ residence, schools, and the daycare centre so that they have a regular supply of drinking water.

To draw on another source of water, workers with Nunavut’s community and government services department set up a second pump house on nearby Landing Lake, about seven kilometres outside town.

The Landing Lake water has been tested, said the hamlet update. Although it is within Canadian safe water standards, many in the community find its water salty, and council members decided “it is now below the standards that we would like to see the people of Arviat using for drinking water.”

The department is also setting up a fill station in the local fire hall, where residents will be able bring water containers and fill them with drinking water until about 7 p.m.. Five-gallon containers will be supplied, if needed.

Once all the ice and drinking water stations are set up and running properly, four water trucks will start hauling water from Landing Lake to Arviat homes, offices and businesses for regular use in bathrooms and kitchens, while one truck will be reserved solely for reservoir water.

Although the hamlet said the situation won’t last very long, and everything should be back to normal by late spring, it will require everyone’s patience until the smaller reservoir cell can be refilled, Leonard said.

“People have been very very good. The inconvenience and the uncertainty of using another water source, some people are uncomfortable with that. But they’re typical northerners. When there’s a problem, everyone gets together,” he said.

As for the leak in the reservoir, this may due to repairs to its plastic liner last summer— and will have to undergo repairs later this year.

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