A new water reservoir in Iqaluit is in the works as the federal government announces $214 million in funding

A new water reservoir system for Iqaluit and improvements to the city’s water distribution system will be built over the next few years, with approximately $214 million in federal funding.

“I feel like some of my gray hair might turn brown again,” Iqaluit Mayor Kenny Bell joked Friday morning following a funding announcement from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“I could have 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 missing for several 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 more than a week under a boil water advisory in January after the city received an influx of complaints about the smell of fuel in the water.

Bell said the city expects most of the work to be completed within about four years. Federal funding – from the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund – is expected to fully cover the costs, and the city will pay for the execution of the project.

Iqaluit residents collect water from the river through holes dug in the ice near Iqaluit on January 14. (Dustin Patar/The Canadian Press)

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

He praised community members for helping each other during the water crisis and highlighted the support offered by the federal government by sending military personnel with temporary water purification systems.

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

Nunavut Premier PJ Akeeagok said the project was needed to build more homes in Iqaluit, which he said is “growing at an unprecedented rate.”

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

“Today’s announcement is a testament to our collective strength, when we are united in a common cause. By working at 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 moment of celebration” and a step towards reconciliation.

“I am hopeful today and thrilled that the City of Iqaluit has received financial support from the federal government,” she said.