Iqaluit taps into the Apex River for drinking water

​The city of Iqaluit has identified the Apex River as the best choice for a secondary drinking water supply to meet the need of its growing population. However, researchers from Ontario's Queen's University say more data is needed before tapping into this water source to prevent depleting the supply.

Researchers say more data is needed to ensure secondary water supply is sustainable

​The city of Iqaluit has identified the Apex River as the best choice for a secondary drinking water supply to meet the need of its growing population. However, researchers from Ontario's Queen's University say more data is needed before tapping into this water source to prevent depleting the supply.

"Understanding what controls how much water you have at various times of year is pretty critical in order to determine whether that drinking water source is going to be sustainable," says Melissa Lafrenière, an associate professor in the geography department at Queen's University who heads the research team.

"Without understanding, you can't manage the water source," says Lafrenière.

The team is investigating the chemical signatures in the water to determine its origins; weather it's coming from snow, rainfall, ice or groundwater. Lafrenière who started this research in 2013 says a long-term approach is needed to identify the impact of climate change on the water supply.

"To understand how watersheds respond to climate, we really need to look at these longer-term studies in order to capture the variability that we observe in the climate."

Right now the city relies on water from Lake Geraldine, however, soon that may not be enough.

Today, Iqaluit's population is approximately 7,000 people. Municipal projections say that number could double in the next 15 years.

"As the city grows our supply will be outstripped by demand," says Matthew Hamp the Director of Public Works and Engineering at the City of Iqaluit, "I would say it's fairly important to find an alternative water source to supplement Lake Geraldine."

The proximity of the  watershed to the community has made it a popular destination spot for fishing, water collection, berry picking, dog walking as well as camping. This density of land use is another reason why sound management is needed to ensure that it can continue to be used as drinking water as well as for traditional uses.  

The research is conducted in assistance from researchers at Nunavut Arctic College who have helped to provide year-round monitoring of the river.  

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