Local rivers possible solution for Iqaluit's imminent water shortage

While it researches long-term solutions, Iqaluit is looking at small fixes, like flexible pipe connectors, to stop pipes from breaking and leaking.

Iqaluit may pilot flexible pipe connectors to stop pipes from breaking and leaking

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

The City of Iqaluit is considering ways to make its drinking water supply keep pace with its population growth.

In June, researchers from York University found that the city can only count on its current source of drinking water, Lake Geraldine, for about five more years.

After the study was published, the city put water supply concerns on the agenda for its public works committee, which will meet this month.

"We always knew that past 2023, if our population continues to grow at the rate it has, which is about 300 new residents every year, almost a thousand new residents every three years, that we are definitely needing to look at a new water supply," Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern said.

Redfern says the Apex River is a potential secondary water source, though the study's lead researcher Andrew Medeiros says while dragging a pipe to the Apex River would be the easiest option, it should not be done.

"It's the simplest, short term fix. It's not often you can say something's not ethical, but you can't drain a river 100 percent, that's not ethical, or 110 per cent is what was actually needed," he said.

Another option is the Sylvia Grinnell River which runs through a nearby territorial park and does not freeze to the ground during the winter.

Redfern suggested some combination of the two might work, but Medeiros says the best option is to refill Lake Geraldine by running heated piping from a lake further away from the city. 

Wasting less water

While the city is choosing a long term solution, Redfern says it will look at reducing wasted water.

Redfern says she wants to see an education campaign roll out in the fall encouraging residents to conserve water with low-water appliances and by taking showers instead of baths.

The study attributed some of Iqaluit's high per capita water consumption to leaky pipes in town.

"We know that every year that we are seeing, often in the same spots, pipes breaking, and it's due to the change in the permafrost. We've identified that one potential fix is flexible couplers," Redfern said.

A pipe-joining coupler will cost around $40,000 and the city wants to use two to five of them at problem sites, such as the Pai-Pa Taxi Garage and near the Northwestel building.

Redfern says all short and long term options will be considered at the upcoming meeting. The mayor says the time to do something is now, while the federal government has money available for climate change adaptation projects.