The City of Iqaluit is mulling over two options in order to shore up its long-term water options in the face of an impending shortage of fresh water for the territorial capital.
In a presentation to the city, consulting firm Stantec Architecture layed out possible options for Iqaluit’s water supply.
“The reality is we need more water here – we’re talking on issues of supply and delivery of water,” said Walter Orr, engineer for Stantec Architecture (NWT, Nunavut, Alberta/Saskatchewan) who was giving the presentation.
The Lake Geraldine Reservoir is Iqaluit’s only supply of freshwater with up to 80 per cent of it being used up by the end of winter. Water supplementation efforts from the Apex River during the summer have been ongoing since 2018.
Under a high-growth scenario, the city estimates water demand might be double than what it currently is today. Additional water is also needed to support more housing in the city and to address the housing shortage.
The Sylvia Grinnell River and an Unnamed Lake northeast of the city are the two options being considered as long-term water sources with summer-only and year-round options being provided. Both choices each present different circumstances and challenges to overcome.
At this time the latter Unnamed Lake summer-only option is the current administrative choice for a long-term water solution from a cost-benefit perspective. At its higher elevation it would only require initial pumping before being piped to Lake Geraldine or a future planned adjacent reservoir. A year-round option would require heated and insulated pipes as well as all-season access to Unnamed Lake.
In comparison, Sylvia Grinnell sits at a lower elevation than Lake Geraldine and would require significantly more power to pump. There are also political considerations to consider, said Amy Elgersma, the city’s chief administrative officer.
“The HTA is strongly against the Sylvia Grinnell option from the original consultations a couple of years ago and they’ve reinforced that,” said Elgersma, adding they support the Unnamed Lake option.
There’s also the wider watersheds to consider, said Orr, with “other watersheds near the Apex Watershed, near Unnamed Lake. Those have not been evaluated at this point but there are other watersheds which could be evaluated for the future,” he said, which could support a population of up to 46,000 people.
When considering the summer-only option, Orr added they would have to install an adjacent reservoir first before proceeding due to the inability to replenish Lake Geraldine during the winter.
The funding for the reservoir was announced by the federal government on April 1, 2021, $214 million was announced and at the time Iqaluit mayor Kenny Bell said the construction would take four years to complete in stages. Water supplementation from Apex River will continue in the meantime.
Councillor Kyle Sheppard added they would soon have to come up with a new name for Unnamed Lake.