Iqaluit prepares water filtration system for future water shortages
Reverse osmosis machine expected to be ready for use by April
The City of Iqaluit will be better prepared for its next water emergency, now that a reverse osmosis filtration system has arrived in town.
The device turns seawater into fresh water. The machine, which the city acquired from the Government of Nunavut after agreeing to pay for transportation and refurbishing costs of about $846,000, had been stored in Alberta, since being last used in Arviat years ago.
It’s now in one of the city’s storage units, awaiting an overhaul and proposals for how to best put the machine to use.
Matthew Hamp, the director of public works, said the filtration system needs refurbishment after years of storage and having been transported to Iqaluit from Alberta.
“There would have been seals and gaskets that would have dried out. They all need to be replaced. It is not repairs per se, it is akin to a tune-up on your car,” Hamp said.
The next steps are to get proposals for “shelf-ready designs” for how to best deploy the machine, and to assess where the machine’s pipes should be laid.
“We would likely do that final refurbishment when we are ready to install the unit,” Hamp said.
Amy Elgersma, the city’s acting chief administrative officer, said she expects the machine will be ready by April.
Since the water task force began repairing pipes and teaching conservation in July, the City of Iqaluit has seen a 20 per cent reduction in water consumption, Hamp said.
“So that is 20,000 cubic metres a month we no longer take from Lake Geraldine,” he said.
Since then, and even after the task force concluded in September, that consumption rate has remained steady.
This was due to the 45 repairs made to leaking pipes around the city, as well as the City of Iqaluit’s ongoing public awareness campaign about water conservation.
Back in July, the city said that about 40 per cent of water from Lake Geraldine was lost to bleeds and breaks in its aging infrastructure.
However, shortly afterward, the city said that number is somewhat inaccurate.
This, Hamp said, is because Iqaluit calculated its water consumption by including the water used in processing.
The industry standard now is not to include the water used for processing, said Hamp.
“To actually treat the water to be drinkable there is a certain amount of water that gets used up, usually around 8 to 10 per cent, so that clarification was about how we calculated that number,” he said.
To get a more comparable reading, the city installed a metre on the outgoing pipe from the water plant last March.
Once the city has recorded a year’s worth of data, Hamp said they will have a more accurate understanding of how much water loss those leaky pipes caused.
Hamp and Elgersma said it was nice to see everyone come together to reduce water consumption over the last few months.
“To achieve 20 per cent savings every month, to see it hold steady is really quite something,” she said.
“It was really something to see the level of cooperation that was there … everyone was very, very committed to helping the city to make sure the water supply shortage was solved. It was a really important factor in the success of this project.”