Arctic Canada: Federal funding to pay for new water reservoir in Iqaluit, Nunavut

Federal leaders beamed in to Iqaluit city council chambers Friday for a funding announcement. Minister of Northern Affairs Dan Vandal, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Nunavut MP Lori Idlout appear on screen. Iqaluit’s chief administrative officer, Amy Elgersma, Mayor Kenny Bell and Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok are seated. (David Gunn/CBC)

A new water reservoir system for Iqaluit and upgrades to the city’s water distribution system will be built over the coming years, thanks to roughly $214 million in federal funding.

“I feel like some of my grey hair might be turning back to brown,” quipped Iqaluit Mayor Kenny Bell Friday morning, following an announcement from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the funding.

“I could go on a long conversation about how this is going to change our city — because it will. It’s going to give us a foundation to build on, something we’ve been lacking for a number of years.”

The money comes after Iqalummiut spent nearly two months last year unable to drink from the city’s water supply due to fuel contamination. They also spent over a week under a boil water advisory in January after the city received an influx of complaints about a fuel smell in the water.

Bell said the city expects most of the work will be completed within about four years. The federal funding — coming from the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund — should completely cover the cost, and the city will be taking the lead on the execution of the project.

Residents of Iqaluit collect river water through holes carved into the ice near Iqaluit on Jan. 14. (Dustin Patar/The Canadian Press)

Trudeau, speaking via video conference, said the new reservoir will be built adjacent to Lake Geraldine, which is currently the city’s reservoir and which is reaching its limit.

He praised community members for stepping up to help each other during the water crisis, and pointed to the support the federal government offered by sending in military personnel with temporary water purification systems.

Trudeau said the funding will give Iqalummiut “accessible and clean drinking water for years to come.”

Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok said the project is necessary in order to build more homes in Iqaluit, which he noted is “growing at an unprecedented rate.”

“Access to clean, safe water is a right that should be available to any community. Nunavummiut have struggled to gain this basic right for far too long,” Akeeagok said.

“Today’s announcement is a testament of our collective strength, when united in a common cause. Working on all levels of government, in partnership with our Inuit organizations, we can achieve significant gains for Nunavummiut.”

Aluki Kotierk, president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., described the announcement as a “great celebratory moment” and a step toward reconciliation.

“I’m filled with great hope today, and excitement that the City of Iqaluit has been provided the federal financial support,” she said.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Arctic Canada: Calls mount for public inquiry into Iqaluit water crisis, CBC News

United States: Climate change is worsening water scarcity in rural Alaska says study, Eye on the Arctic

April Hudson, CBC News

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