Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Iqaluit July 25, 2018 - 1:30 pm

City of Iqaluit strikes task force to look at freshwater shortages

City officials hope to supplement local reservoir before the winter

SARAH ROGERS
Lake Geraldine is pictured here in early July. Lower precipitation levels and increased demand has depleted water levels at Iqaluit's watershed and reservoir, raising concerns that the city may not have sufficient drinking water to supply the community in the years to come. (FILE PHOTO)
Lake Geraldine is pictured here in early July. Lower precipitation levels and increased demand has depleted water levels at Iqaluit's watershed and reservoir, raising concerns that the city may not have sufficient drinking water to supply the community in the years to come. (FILE PHOTO)

The city of Iqaluit is moving forward with plans to supplement its freshwater source this year to prevent potential water shortages.

Lower than normal precipitation levels and increased demand has depleted water levels at Lake Geraldine watershed and reservoir, raising concerns that the city may not have sufficient drinking water to supply the community over the winter months.

The threat of water shortage is hardly new; city officials said they’ve been aware of depleting levels since 2005.

But this most recent response only came after Councillor Joanasie Akumalik raised the issue at a city council meeting earlier this month.

To that end, the city has assembled a task force on local water management to help inform its efforts, approved by council on Tuesday, July 24.

The group is made up of water experts and representatives from all three levels of government, and is set to meet thrice weekly through the summer.

“The city is taking proactive measures to address the potential shortfall,” said Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern at Tuesday’s meeting.

“The goal is that we have sufficient water in Lake Geraldine by no later than Oct. 1.”

City councillors also moved July 24 to address water loss—an estimated 40 per cent of the water that flows through the city’s pipes is lost through bleeds and breaks in its aging infrastructure—as well as to launch a public awareness and water conservation program.

Councillors passed another motion to direct Iqaluit’s mayor to lobby for more federal funding to mitigate the impacts climate change is having on the city’s access to freshwater.

Lake Geraldine relies on the summer months to fill before the winter freeze. Typically, the reservoir is full by October, but that didn’t happen in 2017.

A new assessment prepared by the city shows that the city has seen declining levels of precipitation. February, April and June 2018 recorded the lowest precipitation levels for those months over an 11-year period.

Currently, there is 1.375 million cubic metres of water in the reservoir, which falls within the range of the city’s annual water usage.

The city hasn’t indicated what alternative sources it will look to in order to supplement the city’s freshwater supply, though previous studies have identified both the Apex River and Sylvia Grinnell River as potential sources.

The discussion Tuesday night led some city councillors to question if and how the city has responded to the half-dozen reports it’s commissioned on the community’s drinking water supply since 2006, noting the absence of a municipal water management plan or framework to guide its long-term goals and plans.

“Maybe the reason we’re having this discussion now is because we didn’t do any mitigation,” said Councillor Kuthula Mathazi at Tuesday night’s meeting.

“Though we don’t want to be alarmist, we need to acknowledge that we have a problem.”

Redfern indicated that a long-term water management plan would flow from the work of the new task force.

The city’s capital budget for 2018 includes $1 million pegged for supplementary water design, another $1 million for demand management and $100,000 for utilidor management.

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