But there’s no policy in place to address growth.

June 19th, 2017

CBC News, citing a new study by researchers at York University and the University of Waterloo, reported recently that Iqaluit may face a water shortage within five years owing to “shifting seasons, faster warming in the Arctic than anywhere on Earth and a growing population.”

Nunavut’s population is growing faster than any other province or territory in Canada; its capital city is now home to 7,740 residents, an increase of 15.5% since 2011.

But while the CBC article mentions a growing population as a contributing factor to the possible water shortage, there’s no suggestion of population stabilization as part of the solution. Rather, the article’s focus is on the weakening infrastructure: aging pipes that crack and leak in the harsh climate, thus allowing large amounts of water to leak out, and shifting climate conditions, which are expected to affect snowfall and snow melt, and which will have their own impact on water availability.


Iqaluit gets its water from Lake Geraldine, which scientists estimate can support 7500 people. But the city’s population exceeds that number, especially in summer. The city’s backup plan—to begin using the Apex River to the south as a secondary source—also worries scientists, who believe it doesn’t have enough water to be considered a viable long-term supply.

Taking into account 50 years of climate data, the researchers said they’d need an “an astronomical amount” of river water to sustain the population should there be less rainfall and snowfall, or even extremes.

Climate scientist Andrew Medeiros, a co-author of the study, said Iqaluit will run out of water within the next five years.

By 2024, it’s estimated the city will be in a perpetual state of being unable to restore its water supply.

When CBC contacted the City of Iqaluit for comment on the story, the city wrote back that “Ensuring an ample supply of clean and regulated water for residents is a top priority for the City of Iqaluit. The city is working closely with all levels of government to ensure the long-term viability of delivering safe water for current and future needs.”

Of course, ignoring the problem will not make it go away. Governments, especially those in water precarious areas, will need to make long-range plans, which will include keeping their populations at a sustainable level that does not deplete the water supply on which they depend.

Contact: Madeline Weld, PhD.
President, Population Institute Canada
Tel: (613)833-3668
Email: [email protected]