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July 14, 2024

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Café William


New Water Plant brings Inuvik water up to par with Canadian Drinking Water Standards

We sent Public Works Director, Rick Campbell a series of email questions. His answers are below


WT: Can you briefly describe the town of Inuvik drinking water system - number of users it serves, components, treatment plant, etc.?

The current system provides water to about 3200 people. It consists of a water intake and pumps, a water treatment plant a distribution system for water and sewer, and a water storage tank set above town to provide fire storage and consistent water pressure to the town!

WT: A new water treatment plant was completed by Veolia in 2017.
Yes, the Plant has 3 treatment trains each with an Actiflo treatment system with a Dusenflo filter system and UV lights as well as chlorine injection to make the water safe.

WT: One of its major features was that it allowed for year-round use of the Mackenzie River as a source, whereas Hidden Lake was previously the source during warm months. What made this possible and how does it improve the quality of the drinking water?

Campbell: Using the river as a year around source made it so we only had to build one treatment plant and the water has gone from never meeting the Canadian Standards for Drinking water to being able to meet all the standards.


WT: After four years, has the plant lived up to expectations? And is the private-public relationship working for Inuvik?

Yes, the Plant works just like we were expecting it to work. And the whole system is owned by the town and is not a private-public venture.

WT: Because of the instability of the permafrost, elevated utilidors are used to distribute the water in Inuvik, Can you tell our viewers how this system works?

Campbell: All of our water and sewer systems are above ground because the heat in the water would damage the permafrost by melting it. And the active layer of the permafrost which is at 1.5 metres thick moves up and down at different rates in different areas of town which would always be moving the sewer pipes out of grade. The entire sewerage system in Inuvik, all 15kms of it, is built to drain to the sewage lagoons without the aid of lift stations.

We heat the water in Inuvik to 6C for treatment and it is put out into the water distribution at this temp. All the Water distribution system is set up in loops and it is always being pumped to keep it from sitting and losing heat. The odd branch that isn't a loop we have set up to bleed water into the sewer pipes to keep new warm water coming in.

The Utilidor now consists of 2 steel, mortar-lined, insulated pipes that are supported by steel pilings which support all the piping and valves that are part of any water and sewer system. The only difference is that it is above ground and in the winter all of the potable water is heated to about 6C to keep from freezing.

We now only use water from the east branch of the Mackenzie river for drinking water. We have a water intake in the east branch that we use year-round now and water is treated in the new water treatment plant.

WT: How much drinking water does the plant produce in a day?

As for potable water, we produce about 1800 cubic meters per day in the winter and about 1600 cubic meters in the summer. The water is tested at 3 different times every day for chlorine Levels turbidity levels as well as online automated chlorine and turbidity meters on the treatment trains. The water is tested 4 times a year for Trihalomethanes and it is tested for metals and the like that the Public Health office requires us to have done. Both of which I have attached a copy to this email.

WT: Is a similar system of utilidors used to carry off sewage and wastewater?

Campbell: The Utilidor consists of a potable water pipe and a sewer pipe side by side! Except where the water lines run up to the water tower (Tank).and the sewer main outfall line which collects all the sewage and takes it to the treatment lagoons.

WT: How does Inuvik deal with wastewater? Does the town have sewage overflow problems as many cities in the south have?

The Inuvik population has decreased in recent years, so the system is plenty big enough for the current population. We have just had a program to remove the solids from the primary cells and it hadn't been cleaned out for 20 years before that so we are set for a long time now.

WT: The town of Inuvik has an elevation of 15 m. Is the climate warming a threat to the drinking water system, as ocean levels rise and permafrost becomes increasingly unstable? What are the measures being taken to protect the drinking water system?

We are always improving the way our distribution system is being built and we are about 65% of the way to replacing the original system which was built in the late 1950s. Our water treatment plant has been built on deep piling so that if the ground warms up enough so that the pilings no longer do the job, they have enough area to be friction piles.

WT: Aklavik which is only 55 km from Inuvik on the other side of the Mackenzie River had to be evacuated in 2021 as it did in 2006, because of flooding. As our climate warms, is there a greater risk of flooding in Inuvik as well? Are any measures being contemplated to deal with this situation?

Campbell: Inuvik is all built high enough from the high-water mark so that most of the town is not affected by spring floods. That was the main criteria for building the town to replace Aklavik.

The Town was built in the late 1950ies so most of the water connections were copper. It's all a fairly new town with no lead pipes or connections that I know of. 

WT: What do you as emerging issues for the water system in Inuvik?

Campbell: The biggest issue with the water plant is going to be the rising cost of everything. Good potable water is not cheap to produce. 

As for permafrost issues, we will have to learn to adapt and make changes where necessary.