Iqaluit council hears options to address water woes

Unnamed Lake and Sylvia Grinnell River presented as permanent solutions for bolstering city’s long-term water supply

This image shows the two options for Iqaluit’s long-term water supply, either by pumping water through Unnamed Lake and the Apex River or from the Sylvia Grinnell River. (Image courtesy of City of Iqaluit)

By Emma Tranter

City council heard two options this week for supplementing the city’s long-term water supply.

Water could be taken from the Apex River and Unnamed Lake or the Sylvia Grinnell River, according to Walter Orr, an engineer with Stantec Architecture Ltd., a consultant hired by the city.

He gave council an overview of both options, including year-around and summer-only options, during a meeting Thursday night at city hall.

Coun. Kyle Sheppard chaired the meeting and Coun. Romeyn Stevenson was the only other councillor who attended.

The city gets its water from Lake Geraldine, a naturally replenishing reservoir. In recent years, low precipitation levels have depleted Lake Geraldine, forcing the city to pump more water into it from Apex River and Unnamed Lake.

The city has done this every summer since 2018.

Inuit Child First, Indigenous Services Canada

Even with the supplementary pumping, the city currently uses 80 per cent of the water in Lake Geraldine by the end of winter, Orr said.

To add to these challenges, water demand might double by 2050, said Orr, meaning the city would need 1.8 billion litres more each year. The Lake Geraldine reservoir can’t supply or store that amount of water.

Unnamed Lake is a headwater lake of the Apex River. It could continue to supply enough additional water to refill the existing reservoir each summer.

The lake could provide water to a population of up to 17,000, but needs a new water intake and about 4.5 kilometres of new pipeline, Orr said.

Taking water from Unnamed Lake means the city could also pump water from the Apex River year round, which would supply water up to an additional 46,000 residents.

This option would require a one-time expenditure of about $5.5 amount to use it for summer operations or $7.6 million to do it year-round.

The Sylvia Grinnell River could also supply enough water throughout the summer, but would require a new reservoir for water storage over the winter. It is a  well-known camping and fishing spot for people in Iqaluit.

Iqaluit’s Amaruq Hunters and Trappers Association is strongly opposed to Sylvia Grinnell River being used as a water supply because of its cultural and recreational significance, Orr said.

The river could supply enough water until 2050, but it would only be available in the summer in order to protect fish habitats.

A pipeline to pump water from Sylvia Grinnell to a reservoir would be about 7.5 kilometres, and would cost about $9.1 million.

Earlier this year, the federal government announced $214 million for Iqaluit’s water infrastructure. That money will be used to build a new reservoir, a new supply system and upgrade the city’s water distribution system.

But it will still take time to build the system, with construction not expected to start for at least two years.

Council expects to make a decision on the city’s long-term water supply in August. Then the city will submit an application for its plan to the Nunavut Water Board.

In the meantime, the city will continue to supplement its reservoir from the Apex River.

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(6) Comments:

  1. Posted by no question on

    “In the medium term, the city is permitted to pump from the Apex River until 2026. For the long term, the city is looking at two options as water sources – Unnamed Lake and the Sylvia Grinnell River.” -October 2021

    “And for the future, beyond 2026, the city, because of continued growth, will likely have to look at new permanent solutions to its water supply problems, including pumping water from either Sylvia Grinnell River or Unnamed Lake, and expanding the holding capacity of Lake Geraldine…” – August 2019

    Three years later, these same options are being explained to them again from the same paid experts. Is someone going to pull the trigger on this, or do they just want to keep paying experts to explain the same options, year after year?

    • Posted by Scrubs on

      I’m guessing that depends on who the ‘experts’ are being paid by- this entire situation reeks of graft.

  2. Posted by Its wet, how did this happen? on

    How can we expect the city council make any type of informed decision when only 2 councilors were present at this meeting on options? This is a pretty significant challenge this municipality needs to address. I would argue it should be a priority for all councilors to inform themselves thoroughly on this issue. Beyond Unnamed lake being considered an option, does the engineering department have any certainty around how the Unnamed lake is refreshed? Is there enough refresh annually to support what might become an annual pumping exercise? A questions needing answers before proceeding to build a second reservoir.

    • Posted by Excuses on

      Councilors are elected officials. It’s easy to tell what ones care about their constitutents and what ones decide to say screw it and go out camping instead cause the weather’s good. A better iqaluit starts with better councilors.

  3. Posted by Options & consultations on

    Are these really the only options? Were others even considered? Were they dismissed, and if so why? How about a long term and phased plan/approach to avoid another crisis in 18 years or less? Don’t either of the presented options look really short term and/or narrow? How about options beyond unnamed lake or upstream of Niaqunnguq/Apex River? Were these looked at? Were they not considered because some may be beyond city limits? Why are recommendations made and a decision by council expected when it appears there is incomplete data on Unnamed Lake? Is anyone asking these questions? Not the council it seems… Will the public be consulted? Did the HTO suggest other options?

  4. Posted by Northern Guy on

    From the level of attendance it’s good to see that our elected officials are taking this issue as seriously as the residents.

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