The City of Iqaluit has declared a local state of emergency to help facilitate additional pumping into the Lake Geraldine reservoir, where the city’s water supply is facing unexpectedly low levels this summer.

The Apex River is currently facing a 40-year historic low and a dry summer has exasperated the situation. Under current conditions the city may not have enough water to sustain itself through the winter unless steps are taken immediately.

At an August 12 emergency city meeting, mayor and council passed the motion declaring the emergency. The local state of emergency gives the city additional powers during during local emergencies and the city is now undergoing regulatory steps to pump additional water from both the Apex River and Unnamed Lake a few kilometers north of the Apex River. The main goal of this is to fill Lake Geraldine before winter.

“Nobody guessed we would be at a 40-year low this year,” said Amy Elgersma, chief administrative officer for the City of Iqaluit. “It’s really important the reservoir is full before winter. Something to remember is a third of the reservoir is locked as ice and not available during the winter months.”

Once regulatory approval for an emergency water license amendment is granted, it is expected to take no longer then 40 days for the reservoir to be filled and no later than October 15. The latest they expect to start increasing pumping efforts is September 1. The process will go by faster if precipitation levels increase.

“Any rain that we get now will benefit the project,” said Elgersma, “it will ensure we can fill the lake faster. If we get a significant amount of rainfall, the amount of pumping days will be reduced.”

Attempts to optimize Iqaluit’s water distribution are ongoing, however this winter 16 repairs had to have been made to the city’s water supply system such as leaks and water breaks.

Councillor Kyle Sheppard says additional messaging is also needed for residents and businesses to continue conserving water. Such as putting more effort toward the city’s Water Wise campaign which started in 2018.

“Water is still delicious, just not enough of it,” wrote Iqaluit mayor Kenny Bell on Twitter.

The city administration is confident they will get the pumping work done before winter. The onset of climate change has had an impact on the city’s water supply this year, added Elgersma.

“This wasn’t something that was experienced in the past, in previous years lakes were filling up quickly as soon as the spring melted and rainfall into the summer. We’ve seen extremes, we’ve seen very low years. Last year we’ve had a significant amount of rain in short periods of times, we’ve seen extremes and this is certainly an extreme we’re seeing this year and it is concerning.”

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