Iqaluit wants to pump water from Apex River as stopgap to water crisis

The city of Iqaluit says it needs to draw water from the Apex River to avoid a water shortage expected next spring.

Federal government approval needed for emergency water use

Romeyn Stevenson, deputy mayor for Iqaluit, says the city needs to fill up Lake Geraldine if it is going to have enough water until next summer. (David Gunn/CBC)

The City of Iqaluit says it needs to start drawing water from the Apex River soon to avoid a water crisis next spring.

With a growing population and less rainfall than usual, water levels at Lake Geraldine, the city's reservoir, are lower than previous years.

"We're looking at a top up, not a permanent secondary water source for the community," said Mayor Madeleine Redfern.

In order to fill the reservoir before it freezes over in October, the city says it needs to start pumping water on Aug. 12.

Lake Geraldine, which supplies the City of Iqaluit, sits above the city near the power plant. (David Gunn/CBC)

The city is asking the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Nunavut Water Board to expedite approval. 

Redfern says the city's task force is working with the Government of Nunavut and Department of Crown-Indigenous and Northern Affairs.

Not enough rain

Iqaluit's deputy mayor Romeyn Stevenson says the reservoir will need more water, even with heavy rain this past weekend.

"We would have to have virtually double the normal precipitation for the summer, and it's just not going to happen," he said.

Two pumps and more than one kilometre of hoses will need to be installed to pump 400,000 cubic metres of water. 

In a letter by the Nunavut Water Board addressed to Northern Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc, the city stated it is making an "emergency amendment" to its water licence, but Redfern says there is no water crisis.

"This is not a state of emergency," she said. "This is the city being proactive."

Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern says the city needs to lobby for government money so it can draw water from a secondary water source like Sylvia Grinnell River. (David Gunn/CBC)

Previous studies have shown Iqaluit could run out of water unless precipitation increases and water use plateaus.

Problems could arise early next year, as ice covering the lake caps the reservoir until the spring melt. 

"We spent a lot of money trying to figure out if Apex River would be acceptable as a long-term solution, and it turns out it's not," said Stevenson. As a short-term solution, Apex River is the best bet, because it is closer than other water sources, he said.

The city is considering the Sylvia Grinnell River as a secondary water source for the long-term, but it will need government money to make that happen.

"Long before this immediate situation came up, we were already budgeting over a million dollars moving forward with that project," said Stevenson.

The City of Iqaluit plans to pump 400,000 cubic metres of water from the Apex river to Lake Geraldine. (David Gunn/CBC)

City asks residents to be 'water-wise'

In a public service announcement, the city asked residents and businesses to reduce water consumption.

"The city is not telling residents to stop doing laundry or not to do dishes," said Mayor Redfern.

Some tips include turning off water when brushing teeth, taking five-minute showers, and not washing vehicles with city water.

Water conservation is not novel, but it has become more urgent in Iqaluit, said Stevenson.

"It's good as a community to come together to find ways of not wasting water," he said.


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