Iqaluit’s looming water shortage deserves greater attention: city councillor
“I am just scared that if we don't look after this ... it is going to become a chaos for the community”
Updated on July 13 at 9:40 a.m.
Joanasie Akumalik handed out water bottles to his fellow Iqaluit city councillors at this week’s meeting, in place of the typical pitchers and glasses.
If no action plan is created soon about the depleting water levels at the Lake Geraldine supply, Akumalik warned during a member’s statement on Tuesday, July 10, buying bottled water will be the only option in the future―and that scares him.
People in Iqaluit might have to ration water, he said, and only shower once a week, for example.
A 2014 study prepared by EXP Services on the city’s diminishing water supply was neglected by council and the administration for years, according to Akumalik. And in 2017, Andrew Scott, a researcher now with Dalhousie University, warned in a journal article that Iqaluit could run out of freshwater within five to 10 years.
“The council and the administration are at fault for neglecting that report,” Akumalik said, suggesting that the 2014 study might have been overlooked due to a dump fire that occurred at the same time as when the report was brought to their attention.
Akumalik went to the Lake Geraldine water supply last week and took some photos that he gave to the other city council members.
Over time the water has gone down over two metres, said Akumalik. As a result, he said two new “islands” have popped into view above the surface that he and other long-term residents have never seen before.
Akumalik urged city council to deal with it immediately and reminded them that EXP Services, which prepared the 2014 study, recommended that the city begin monitoring the reservoir levels.
“I am just scared that if we don’t look after this … it is going to become a chaos for the community,” Akumalik said.
Akumalik asked for council to get a full update on the city’s water management plan either by the next committee meeting or council meeting.
Mayor Madeleine Redfern said they will have a discussion on the topic at the next council meeting and that more information would be shared then.
“I know the director of public works has in the last little while provided some updates and we have provided funding to look at Sylvia Grinnell as a secondary water source,” Redfern said.
Afterwards, Redfern said in an interview that the city’s public works department has been providing city council with regular updates on the water supply.
As well, this year council approved spending of $1 million on the water supply issues, including a secondary water survey, from Gas Tax funding. Another $700,000 is going toward dam repairs at Lake Geraldine.
The dwindling water supply is something the city is taking very seriously, Redfern said.
This motion was brought up during the first reading of a bylaw amendment regarding the private hauling of water, spurred in part by requests by the Nunavut Brewing Company Ltd.
Akumalik said, when asked, that this is not related to his not supporting the brewery project. He just wants the water issue to be resolved.
“There used to be a continuous overflow of the water … but now last week when I went to see it, the water was two metres down and there are new, big islands.”
An earlier version of this story stated that council passed a motion requesting an update on the city’s water management plan. In fact, Coun. Akumalik proposed such a motion, but it was never voted on.