As glacier melts, Grise Fiord residents fear for water supply

People in Grise Fiord on Ellesmere Island, who rely on a glacier for their drinking water, are worried about the long-term future of their water supply as glaciers melt due to global warming.

Grise Fiord, pop. 150, relies on glacier melt for water, uses icebergs as backup

(Olivia Brown)

People in GriseFiord, Nunavut, who rely on a glacier for their drinking water, are worried about the long-term future of their water supply as glaciers melt due to global warming.

Nunavut’s High Arctic MLA Isaac Shooyook raised the issue in the Nunavut Legislature after hearing from some concerned constituents.

“If our water source were to melt away completely, and as water is so vital, how then can we ensure water for the community for the future?”

Grise Fiord, pop. 150, has no natural water reservoir like many Nunavut communities.

Each summer, Canada's most northern community replenishes its two supply tanks with over seven million litres of water from a nearby glacier.

That vital stream isn't at risk of running dry anytime soon, but MLA Isaac Shooyook says the 150 residents of Grise Fiord are worried that the glacier is melting away.   

In 2008, a crumbling tank and a lack of an alternate water source led to a serious water shortage, forcing the community to top up its supply tanks using chunks of an iceberg.

Nunavut’s Department of Community and Government Services plans to visit the community next spring as part of a study into the community’s long-term water supply.

The study will look at the existing glacier-fed stream and assess its viability as a long-term, sustainable water source for the community over the next thirty years.

The hamlet’s senior administrative officer, Marty Kuluguqtuq, says there’s no immediate concern, but residents are concerned about the future.

“What is going to happen within the next 10, 20 years or so when there’s a possibility that this glacier might not exist anymore?”