Hydrologic monitoring tools for freshwater municipal planning in the Arctic: the case of Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada

Abstract

Freshwater and the services it provides are vital to both natural ecosystems and human needs; however, extreme climates and their influence on freshwater availability can be challenging for municipal planners and engineers to manage these resources effectively. In Arctic Canada, financial and human capital limitations have left a legacy of freshwater systems that underserve current communities and may be inadequate in the near future under a warming climate, growing population, and increasing demand. We address this challenge to community water resource planning by applying several novel water supply forecasting methods to evaluate the Apex River as an alternative freshwater source for Iqaluit, Nunavut (Canada). Surveys of water isotope composition of the Apex River and tributaries indicated that rainfall is the main source of water replenishment. This information was utilized to calibrate a water resource assessment that considered climate forecasting scenarios and their influence on supply, and alternative scenarios for freshwater management to better adapt to a changing climate. We found that under current climate and demand conditions, the freshwater supply of Iqaluit would be in a perpetual state of drawdown by 2024. Analysis of current infrastructure proposals revealed significant deficiencies in the supply extensions proposed whereby the Apex replenishment pipeline would only provide a 2-year extension to current municipal supply. Our heuristic supply forecast methods allowed for several alternative supply strategies to be rapidly evaluated, which will aid the community planning process by specifically quantifying the service life of the city’s current and future primary water supply.

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Acknowledgements

This project was supported by an NSERC Discovery Grant awarded to BBW, by the Northern Scientific Training Program to support MB, and a York University research grant awarded to ASM. We are grateful to the Nunavut Research Institute for logistical assistance and to Thomas W.D. Edwards for his guidance and insight.

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Correspondence to Andrew Scott Medeiros.

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Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues

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Bakaic, M., Medeiros, A.S., Peters, J.F. et al. Hydrologic monitoring tools for freshwater municipal planning in the Arctic: the case of Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada. Environ Sci Pollut Res 25, 32913–32925 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-017-9343-4

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Keywords

  • Freshwater modeling
  • Arctic
  • Water security
  • Water resource assessment