Grise Fiord taps icebergs during water shortage
Residents in the High Arctic hamlet of Grise Fiord, Nunavut, are getting water from icebergs as they deal with a severe water shortage this spring.
Normally, the community of 140 fills up two huge water tanks with glacial runoff every June, which provides enough water for the rest of the year.
But maintenance work and a lack of rain last summer left the tanks under-filled — and now they are nearly dry.
Grise Fiord officials have issued an advisory urging residents to conserve water, while a six-kilometre ice road has been built to the hamlet's newest water source — a massive iceberg.
"This year is unusual," hamlet administrator Marty Kuluguqtuq told CBC News on Monday.
"We didn't foresee the early freeze-up and the lack of rain, and that's why we're trying to replenish our water supply from icebergs."
Kuluguqtuq said loaders are breaking chunks off the iceberg and hauling them into the community, where four people chip them into smaller pieces and put them into the tanks.
Kuluguqtuq estimates the expensive but essential endeavour will cost about $60,000. He said he hopes it will provide residents with enough water until the spring thaw in June.
The temporary arrangement shocked Lee Wood, the principal at Ummimak School in Grise Fiord. Wood, originally from New Brunswick, said he has never been in a community that used icebergs for water.
"Water is a necessity for life, and we should be taking better care of it then we are right now," he said. "I'm talking about mankind in general, so this is certainly coming close to home here."
The lack of water has also prompted residents to wonder what would happen should the problem recur.
"Climate change becomes a factor in our situation, which we never foresaw a few years ago when we built these tanks," Kuluguqtuq said. "We probably have to look for another source of getting water from other than the glaciers and all."