City seeks emergency water licence change

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The City of Iqaluit will be requesting an emergency amendment to its water licence, according to an August 3 letter from the Nunavut Water Board to federal minister Dominic LeBlanc.

NNSL file photo
City of Iqaluit councillor Joanasie Akumalik drew attention to the urgent matter of the diminished state of the city’s supply of potable water, Lake Geraldine, in July. Past high-water marks on the concrete behind Akumalik show how the reservoir is depleted.

The city wants “to withdraw water from a new source, the Niaqunguk River (Apex River), to augment the withdrawals already authorized under the water licence from Lake Geraldine,” states water board chairperson Lootie Toomasie.

As the public learned July 24, lower precipitation and increasing demand on the city’s water source has led to an all-time low at the Lake Geraldine reservoir. At the council meeting, those in attendance heard the city wanted to top up the reservoir with water from another source before October so it could avoid the possibility of running out of water this coming winter.

Toomasie states in his letter to LeBlanc that in July of 2017 the Government of Nunavut’s chief medical officer identified the situation as a public health and safety emergency and ordered the city to take the steps necessary to ensure a sufficient water supply for the city.

According to Toomasie, the city has requested to pump approximately 400,000 cubic metres of water from the Apex River into the Lake Geraldine Reservoir, from the week of Aug. 12 until October.

“Pumping from this supplemental water supply is urgently required to ensure that the Lake Geraldine Reservoir has sufficient water to meet the water withdrawal needs of the City (including supplying drinking water for residents) throughout the upcoming winter season,” states Toomasie.

The water board is seeking LeBlanc’s consent to expedite consideration of the city’s emergency application once it has been received.

If the board recommends the change, LeBlanc then considers approval.

If the minister withholds consent, the city’s application would be processed as a non-emergency and lead to a nine-month process, including a public hearing.

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Michele LeTourneau
Michele LeTourneau first arrived at NNSL's headquarters in Yellowknife in1998, with a BA honours in Theatre. For four years she documented the arts across the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Following a very short stint as a communications officer with the Government of the Northwest Territories, Michele spent a decade at a community-based environmental monitoring board in the mining industry, where she worked with Inuit, Chipewyan, Tlicho, Yellowknives Dene and Metis elders to help develop traditional knowledge and Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit contributions for monitoring and management plans. She rejoined NNSL and moved to Iqaluit in May 2014 to write for Nunavut News. Michele has received a dozen awards for her work with NNSL.