New system delivers H2O so delicious people prefer it to the store-bought stuff

Community glories in clean, abundant water


KUUJJUARAAPIK – When you're in Kuujjuaraapik, you can do your laundry any time of the day or night and not worry if you'll run out of water.

And the water flowing from the tap is so clean that people fill bottles with tap water instead of buying bottled water at the store.

All this is possible due to Kuujjuaraapik's new piped water system, which was completed three years ago, for a cost of $9 million.

The system is similar to Iqaluit's utilidor system. However, all Kuujjuaraapik's insulated plastic pipes are located underground.

Quebec picked up most of the tab for the system, while the Kativik Municipal Housing Bureau covered the attachments needed to pipe water into local social housing units.

The new system means people in Kuujjuraapik don't have to put up with the salty water that used to come out of the taps in the autumn when brackish sea water from Hudson Bay backed up the Great Whale River.

Kuujjuaraapik's crystal-clear water is now pumped up from a well 100 metres underground.

At the central pumping station, municipal water technician Peter Kumarluk tests the water for cleanliness, and it's rare now that a "boil water" advisory is posted.

Kumarluk says when he issues such an advisory, it's because he couldn't get the water sample out for its more thorough monthly testing – not because of any contamination.

To make sure the pipe system runs problem-free, Kumarluk regularly checks over detailed computerized monitoring displays, which show the slightest variation in water pressure.

To make sure the water doesn't freeze anywhere in the system during the winter, particularly where pipes come out of the ground to connect to houses, a wire along the pipes can be heated up to warm them, if necessary.

Thanks to the new water system, Kuujjuaraapik saves $300,000 a year – but no jobs were lost due to the changeover from trucked water delivery and pick-up, as truck drivers assumed other roles in the municipality.

Kumarluk continues to undergo regular training on the water system as he works towards his certification as an operator.

Kuujjuaraapik's piped water system, the only one is Nunavik, is a source of pride to municipal secretary treasurer Pierre Roussel, who helped guide the project off the drawing board into reality.

"We're so proud of it. You can have a shower now at 3 a.m. if you want," he said.

Hygiene isn't the only area that's improved. When there's a fire in town, fire engine pumps can now plug directly into the water system, eliminating trips to the river for water.

Roussel is happy that people in Kuujjuaraapik already take the piped water system for granted and have forgotten how difficult water service was in the past.

Wastewater now goes into three lagoons outside of town where all impurities are filtered out. When the water's clean – clean enough to fish in, some maintain, it's discharged into the bay.

Kuujjuaraapik's twin Cree community, Whapmagoostui, already had a piped water system, the legacy of the Great Whale River's former military base. Its system was upgraded when Kuujjuaraapik's system was installed.

Kuujjuraapik and Whapmagoostui, which have a combined population of about 1,200, are ideal for a piped water delivery system because they are built on a six-metre deep layer of sand, with no permafrost.

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