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Nipissar Lake levels 'alarmingly low'

Kassina Ryder
Northern News Services
Published Monday, Aug. 3, 2009

RANKIN INLET - The lake that supplies Rankin Inlet with its water is shrinking and investigations will take place over the summer and fall to determine the cause, according to staff with Nunavut's Department of Community and Government Services.

Deputy minister Shawn Maley said the department doesn't yet know why the water level in Nipissar Lake is so low.

"We donít know why, we donít know if it's correlated between rainfall or snowfall or if it's increased consumption," he said. "But definitely, our water level is alarmingly low."

Ralph Ruediger, regional director of community and government services said a team from the University of Ottawa is scheduled to head to Rankin Inlet in August to conduct studies on the lake.

He said the study is one of a number of investigations will take place this summer and fall to determine the cause of the decrease and to help the department plan possible water reduction strategies for the future.

"A lot of studies are going to be done on this," he said. Ruediger said the University of Ottawa team has been involved in projects across Nunavut throughout the summer as part of a federally-funded climate change research project.

He said they will be focusing on how much water is currently in the lake and will look at other bodies of water near Rankin Inlet that could be used to refill Nipissar.

Maley said the department is considering pumping water from another source into Nipissar Lake during the summer months to maintain water levels. He said a similar system is in place in Arviat where water from Wolf Creek is pumped into the town's reservoir.

"Simultaneously, we're looking at a seasonal re-supply of that lake," Maley said. "We do it in a couple of other places where you have a pipeline and a pumphouse to another water source and you fill it up as much as you can in the summer time to get you through until the next season again."

The University of Ottawa team will determine the volume of water in Nipissar Lake, Ruediger said.

"They're going to do depth soundings, they're basically going to determine the depth of Nipissar Lake to come up with a volume of water thatís there," he said.

Ruediger said a lack of precipitation and snowfall over the past few years could be part of the cause.

"I know there's been a lot less snowfall in the last three years than we've had normally, and snowfall would be a big factor," he said. "Precipitation could be another big factor, we're getting less of it."

He also said an increase in the town's population or leaks in the town's water supply system could be contributing to the decreasing water level.

"There's a population increase, we could also have a problem with people on utilidor, there may be areas that need to be repaired or upgraded," he said. "There could be leaks on the utilidor system, leaks from service lines."

Ruediger said the department is scheduled to contract divers to inspect the intake system under the water in the lake. The divers will also look at the storage tank and the sewage outfall later this summer. Consultants could also be hired to complete a water shed study and help with possible water reduction plans.

Ruediger said Rankin Inlet's water system will have to change to accommodate a growth in population and new projects in the hamlet.

Ruediger also said this isn't the first time the town has had to improve its water system, which used to be primarily sourced from Williamson Lake.

"We've been through this before, I've been here for 28 years," he said. "I've seen consumption increase then a bunch of work was done on the system and we made the system much more efficient again," he said.