Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Iqaluit August 10, 2018 - 12:44 pm

GN declares Iqaluit’s potential freshwater shortage a health emergency

City has applied for last-minute permit to pump water from Apex River and unnamed lake

SARAH ROGERS
A water licence application prepared by the City of Iqaluit shows the two water bodies from which it plans to supplement Lake Geraldine: the Apex River along the Road to Nowhere, as well as another unnamed lake about 1.6 kilometres northwest. (IMAGE COURTESY OF THE CITY OF IQALUIT)
A water licence application prepared by the City of Iqaluit shows the two water bodies from which it plans to supplement Lake Geraldine: the Apex River along the Road to Nowhere, as well as another unnamed lake about 1.6 kilometres northwest. (IMAGE COURTESY OF THE CITY OF IQALUIT)

The City of Iqaluit has applied for an emergency amendment to its water licence in order to replenish the city’s freshwater reservoir before winter, following a new report that suggests there may not be adequate water to meet the community’s demands between now and early 2019.

The amended application, filed with the Nunavut Water Board last week, looks to withdraw up to 500,000 square metres of water from the Apex River and “unnamed waterbodies” any time between Aug. 9 and Oct. 30 this year.

The application also requires permission to temporarily alter the flow of the water in the river’s watershed to accommodate the withdrawal.

The move comes just weeks after the potential shortage was raised at two separate city council meetings in July.

On July 24, councillors opted to strike a task force to explore their options on how to replenish the Lake Geraldine reservoir in the short-term, and how to ensure a long-term freshwater source for the city.

But the amendment suggests the city was prompted by the Government of Nunavut to act fast.

Just three days after that meeting, on July 27, Nunavut’s chief medical officer declared the city’s potential freshwater shortage over the coming year a “health emergency.”

“The [Department of Health] directed the city to immediately intervene to ensure the city has sufficient water quantity for the season,” the amendment reads.

City councillors raised the issue of low water levels in Lake Geraldine in early July. Typically, the reservoir is full by October, but that didn’t happen in 2017.

The city then hired at least two separate consulting firms to gather data around the issue.

The first, Colliers International, produced an assessment in mid-July that shows the city has seen unusually low levels of precipitation. February, April and June 2018 had the lowest precipitation levels for those months over an 11-year period.

A second report, prepared by Golder Associates and dated July 25, indicated that “under certain climatic and demand conditions, sufficient source water would not be retained by the reservoir to satisfy the city’s winter water demands,” the water licence application said.

The first phase of the replenishment would see two pumps installed on the south shore of the Apex River at a location just over a kilometre upstream from the Road to Nowhere bridge, powered by a diesel generator and overland hoses.

Once the maximum permitted withdrawal has been made from the river, the city would supplement it with water from a lake 1.6 kilometres northeast of the end of Road to Nowhere—part of the Apex River watershed—also drawn with a pump and hoses.

If necessary, the city would apply for supplementary pumping next year, from Aug. 1 to Oct. 30, 2019, based on the success of this year’s pumping.

The city’s application has not yet been approved.

Previous research has looked at the viability of drawing water from the Apex River and concluded the river would only have the capacity to provide water over a two-year period.

The city currently has the materials needed to pump from the river, but would require additional equipment to pump from the unnamed lake farther away—which research has identified as a more viable long-term solution to replenishing Lake Geraldine.

In the licence application, the city said it continues to look at long-term solutions for replenishing the city’s reservoir, which it hopes to have completed in two to three years’ time.

Those include using desalinized seawater or looking to draw from different locations along the Sylvia Grinnell River.

In the meantime, the city has sent out two separate notices to residents of Iqaluit to conserve water.

The first asks residents to take showers instead of baths, because the latter tend to use 265 litres—more than five times the average shower.

A second notice on Aug. 9 said residents are no longer permitted to use city water to wash cars, at home or as part of any business or fundraising activities.

Iqaluit Water License Application (Amended) by NunatsiaqNews on Scribd

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(9) Comments:

#1. Posted by Leave it to Beaver on August 10, 2018

Leave it to the GN and City of Iqaluit to run out of fresh water, the most blatantly abundant resource surrounding the city (and territory in general). What’s next… a rock shortage?

#2. Posted by thirsty on August 10, 2018

Time to call it. How has the city government not been shut down yet? This has been a problem that has been on the verge of happening for years!! I feel bad for the current Mayor for inheriting this problem!

#3. Posted by Paul Murphy on August 10, 2018

The current Mayor may have inherited the problem which begs an answer to the question “what has she done about it?”  And she is not the only councilor who should be held to task. Some have been here for years. THEN look at management and ask what they have done. Heads need to roll on this. Including those at the GN who by now should have jumped all over this and other accumulated mismanagement within this hamlet.

#4. Posted by Ataniiq on August 10, 2018

I blame the beer and wine store.. ha

#5. Posted by Fox on August 10, 2018

So much for being proactive!

#6. Posted by Matt on August 12, 2018

#1-#5. Why is everyone playing the blame game? Water problem recognized & they have and are doing something about it. Stop griping all of u. If u don’t like what is happening in IQ then run for council and change it.

#7. Posted by Northern Guy on August 12, 2018

Researchers from the University of Waterloo identified this issue years ago. The city chose to ignore them. The City (and everyone else) is also ignoring the fact that this water issue has nothing to do with consumption or precipitation and everything to do with a failing delivery system that wastes up to 40% of all the water Iqaluit pumps out of the reservoir. Until that issue is addressed they can refill the lake every year and there will be an issue.

#8. Posted by speak on August 13, 2018

#7 Northern Guy, truth bomb!!! You nailed it. Has anyone from the city addressed the 40% waste issue?

#9. Posted by Iqalungmiut on August 13, 2018

Why did the Mayor deny the emergency prior to the public consultation?

Why hasn’t there been a public meeting on this emergency?

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