Iqaluit declares local state of emergency over water drought

Declaration shows other government bodies that the city’s water situation is dire, says CAO

Iqaluit’s chief administrative officer, Amy Elgersma, presents to council Friday on how the city suggests filling the Lake Geraldine reservoir with enough water for the winter months. (Photo by David Venn)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

For the first time in three years, Iqaluit is in a local state of emergency due to a water shortage.

City councillors met Friday afternoon in an emergency session to discuss how to make it through the winter with enough water in Lake Geraldine, the city’s raw water reservoir.

They voted unanimously to declare a local state emergency, which sends the signal to other government bodies that Iqaluit’s water drought is dire, said chief administrative officer Amy Elgersma.

“For us, [the local state of emergency] demonstrates to the water board … and our regulators the seriousness of the situation,” she said in an interview.

The city’s plan is to apply for an amendment to its water licence to allow it to pump more water than it’s currently allowed from the Apex River, and to pump water from Unnamed Lake into Apex River and then into Lake Geraldine.

It’s a tactic the city last used in 2019.

This time, it will be an easier process because the equipment — pumps, hoses and pipes — are mostly in Iqaluit and the city has experience with the regulatory process for this application, Elgersma said.

At this point in previous years, the reservoir would be nearly full, Elgersma said.

However, the Apex River is at historical low-water volumes now, according to data from the past 40 years, and so the city hasn’t been able to pump as much, she said.

“I’ve heard from people who have been out hiking on the land and out and about that they’ve noticed that it is another dry year and you’d be able to see that for yourself,” she said.

The city has pumped 201,000 cubic metres from the river to the reservoir since it began pumping on June 10, Elgersma said.

There’s room in the reservoir for more than 413,000 cubic metres, which is equivalent to about 12,400 six-metre-long sea cans.

Elgersma said the city estimates it will take about 40 days, depending on rainfall, to fill the reservoir, and that pumping will begin no later than Sept. 1.

That means the reservoir could be filled by around Oct. 10.

Coun. Kyle Sheppard said the city should come up with new messaging about water conservation for residents.

“We’ve been, without a state of emergency declared, under a water emergency for years now,” Sheppard said.

“We’ve become immune to it in a way, and people are not paying the same amount of attention to our water shortage as they were in the past.”

 

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(46) Comments:

  1. Posted by Thirst for Vocabulary on

    Coun. Sheppard said:

    “We’ve become immune to it in a way, and people are not paying the same amount of attention to our water shortage as they were in the past.”

    Does he perhaps mean “inured to it”?

    Or has he noticed actual physiological adaptations similar to those seen in desert creatures?

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    • Posted by No need to embarass on

      When people are being interviewed, sometimes nervousness or feeling “on the spot” talking to a reporter, they get words mixed up or misuse a word. You do not need to be meanspirited about it. I hate being interviewed because of comments such as this one.

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      • Posted by Ms. Information on

        Coun. Sheppard does not need your white-knighting. He is often quite condescending and dismissive and needs to be taken down a notch or two.

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        • Posted by Maq-Pat on

          Username checks out

    • Posted by hmmmmm on

      I’ll take unproductive nitpicking pedantry for 400 please Ken.

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  2. Posted by Makes me think on

    Why no one notice the RCMP spraying,washing their vehicles ?

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    • Posted by Lives in iqaluit on

      I live behind the station and work beside it, I never seen them to this.

      Cleaning windshields is acceptable regardless but I’ve never even seen them to that.

      Don’t make junk up please.

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  3. Posted by John W Paul Murphy on

    Why has the Council not been proactive in this in the first place?

    Surely the millions they have spent on consultant fees over the past couple of years alerted them and they saw this coming.

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    • Posted by Ms. Information on

      Correct that they should have been more aware of this risk over the longer term, but on the shorter term the writing has been on the wall all summer.

      There was no need to wait until mid-August to finally do something about it.

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      • Posted by John K on

        The article says they started pumping in the first half of June.

        Did you read it?

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        • Posted by Thirst for Vocabulary on

          There hasn’t been any water coming out of that pipe into Geraldine Lake for many weeks, ostensibly because there isn’t enough water in the Apex river (Amy says so, but it would be nice to have that corroborated).

          The phrasing “the city has pumped” is misleading. More accurate to say “the city pumped 201,000 cubic metres over a few weeks starting on June 10”. The use of “has” implies that the work continues into the present, which it does not.

          Have you been up there to look… say since late June/early July?

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    • Posted by Next election on

      The city and this council haven’t been proactive about anything. What makes you think it’s going to start now? Mayor Bell likes the drama associated with emergency situations. He’s building his case for the next election.

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      • Posted by John W Paul Murphy on

        Why do we automatically think this was the council not being proactive?

        Perhaps it was the CAO, and her staff, (who allegedly advise the Mayor and Council), who weren’t proactive.

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        • Posted by Dah on

          Paul read your original comment. You said council was not being proactive. What the?

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          • Posted by John W Paul Murphy on

            Maybe they were and maybe they weren’t. I did say, why do WE (including myself) think the council was not being proactive? Perhaps staff were the ones not being proactive in bringing the potential water shortage to the council.

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            • Posted by Thirst for Vocabulary on

              This is a known issue. Council has no excuse for not being on top of it. Council should be actively questioning staff and then questioning the responses they give and if responses are inadequate then question them twice as hard.

            • Posted by Lol on

              You’re arguing with yourself Paul.

              • Posted by John W Paul Murphy on

                I never argue with myself. My first comment said I thought Council was not proactive.
                My second comment was or perhaps it was staff who weren’t proactive.
                Now perhaps it was the GN staff who were not proactive.
                No arguing, just thinking of all the options.
                Now can we get back to the issue at hand?

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                • Posted by Ms. Information on

                  You’re vacillating, Paul.

            • Posted by Nu on

              Your exact comment, word for word was:
              “Why has the Council not been proactive in this in the first place?
              Surely the millions they have spent on consultant fees over the past couple of years alerted them and they saw this coming.”

              Are you the only one allowed to question the actions of people in power or something? Sure seems that way.

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    • Posted by Saviours on

      Alot of people with saviour complex sitting on council.

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  4. Posted by Imiq!!!! on

    Heck, a long winter again with water shut downs, boil water advisories, and filling buckets again… This is minus the dumpcano and other unforeseen fires…, frozen pipes. Help!!!!!! Please go on the radio with your councillors and talk to us.

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  5. Posted by Rambler on

    this could be worse,i remember many years ago in kingait when the water pipeline broke and they had no water

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  6. Posted by Inuk on

    Those water and sewages are a nuisance. Hot water pumps loud public service engines are cruel. Don’t go that way.

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  7. Posted by READ THIS on

    The real culprit is the HTA, they denied access to the Sylvia Grinnell to the city. We could literally sustain the water supply for a growing population for the next 50 years if we did. Only 1% of the sylvia grinnel would be taken, but somehow that would affect the char runs… give me a break. Nobody but to blame but the HTA. If Iqaluit can’t handle being the capital, move this show to Rankin, move the government jobs and opportunities there.

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    • Posted by No one talks about this, why? on

      Rankin has its own water issues, which we seldom hear of in this publication as its center of gravity is Iqaluit.

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    • Posted by confirm on

      can you confirm if low water levels don’t effect the char run? if so, please provide a link to a study. this is a legitimate concern and alot of people rely on that river to catch fish. not everyone can afford store bought meat. and plus, char is way better then farm raised animals.

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      • Posted by Thirst for Vocabulary on

        Only draw water during the low half of the tidal cycle, so that it’s full flow during the high half and the char can get up/down?
        Or just don’t draw water at the times of year when the char are running.
        Or both… it’s still a lot of good water available.

  8. Posted by Big Think on

    I have a question. I have been naming Unnamed Lake as a potential medium-term solution to this for about… oh maybe 7 years now.
    .
    If the city had just built some sort of semi-permanent pipe system from Unnamed Lake to Lake Geraldine 6 years ago, would you still be having this problem?
    .
    The city has how many kilometres of underground utilidor that they rip up and replace every year, but when it comes to filling their actual water source, they can’t spare 3km from one lake to another?

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  9. Posted by Amnesia on

    Has the City (council, officials, and staff) forgotten about all the flushing of water they did last winter as part of the diesel water crisis? They opened the hydrants and made all residents flush for 20 mins at a time, multiple times. The severe water shortage we have now is a management issue. Yes, climate change continues to be a factor, but this situation was created by management and entirely predictable given the choice to flush so much water out of the lake last year. City: own your mistakes and learn from them.

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    • Posted by S on

      Amnesia: those are reasonable comments you made; except the artificial-climate blurb, of course

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  10. Posted by Sky on

    Unsafe place, bad place to live.

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  11. Posted by Northern Guy on

    Councilor Sheppard needs to shut up about residents conserving water, given that Iqaluit’s rotten and decrepit water delivery systems wastes orders of magnitude more water than its residents ever could! There have been at least two instances in the past year where literally millions of litres of potable water was flowing across the tundra between the boarding home and Astro Hill and the water crisis is the resident’s fault!?!?? Gimme a break!

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    • Posted by JFC on

      40% of water going through the City pipe system is lost to leakage.

  12. Posted by Mini on

    Food insecurity is too bad for Inuit. Not encouraging healthy lifestyle. Too one sided.

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  13. Posted by A Couple Items on

    City of Iqaluit Council and Admin. Before you go telling people to conserve water lets address a couple things:
    – Plan to do utilidor replacement/excavation in the summer not February….
    – New/replacement utilidor leave above ground.
    -Proactively apply for water licence to pump from unnamed lake, instead of trying to force it via a state of emergency
    -Questions City Staff at council meetings for the benefit of the public
    – Show up to meetings about major water projects. The last council session on the options to deal with our water shortage only 2 councillors showed up not enough for quorum…..

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    • Posted by Maq-Pat on

      THIS!

  14. Posted by Picky Mickey on

    To quote Denethor from Return of the King – “Abandon your posts! Flee, flee for your lives!”

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  15. Posted by But also on

    I have no memory of active requests from the city that we conserve water over the past few months. Maybe there was a news release asking for that, but it seems to me if you really want citizens to conserve water you need a bit of an education campaign and tips. We are in this sh** together and we should all do our part but it is hard to feel confident in the way the city is handling our water woes…

  16. Posted by When it’s not an emergency on

    Poor planning is not an emergency. Calling something an emergency years and years into the issue is artificial. Kind of like the justification for covid restrictions after the first 12 months were nonsense, there was no emergency.

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    • Posted by S on

      “When it’s not an emergency”, thanks for your comments.

      Don’t you think that covid restrictions after the first 12 days were nonsense? Many of us do.

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      • Posted by Dear S on

        I think we government didn’t know about the level of threat thay it acted accordingly. I don’t support the infringement of charter mobility rights until very late 2021 with the hotel jails but maybe for the first year I can get behind it.

  17. Posted by Sheppard on

    If Kyle Sheppard was a superhero, his name would be The Exaggerator

  18. Posted by My cousin on

    People keep blaming poor planning by this group or that. Because people want someone to blame.

    Not one person speaks about the personal accountability of you and me being responsible with our daily water use. You don’t need to take two or more showers a day, you don’t need to wash your dishes in the dish washer everyday. You don’t need to flush your toilet if all you did was pee. Etc etc

    Simple habit changes make for huge changes to our environment.

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    • Posted by Maq-Pat on

      We’re talking about a town of less than 9 thousand, that’s boundary’s include access to a pristine watershed comparable in size to the system supporting ten ties as many people on Vancouver Island. Nunavummiut often have to survive with less, and for some communities like Iglulik that means conserving water. Iqalingmmiut should NOT accept being told there is a long-term lack of fresh water, any more then they should accept being told there is a lack of developable land.

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    • Posted by We See You on

      Nice try, Councillor Sheppard.

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