Canadian Arctic city declares state of emergency over water shortage

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Residents line up to collect bottled water after fuel contamination was confirmed in city supply

By Ismail Shakil

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The northern Canadian city of Iqaluit declared a state of emergency on Friday after scarce rain this year left water levels in the local Apex River at a four-decade low.

Iqaluit warned it may not have enough water in its reservoir to sustain its population of about 7,800 when a freeze-up takes hold during winter unless the city sources more water, according to an official statement.

The city said it was now seeking regulatory approval to pump more than the permitted amount of water from the Apex River and tap an additional water source.

Officials have proposed using an unnamed lake, about 3.5 km (2.17 miles) north of Iqaluit, as an additional source of water. The same lake was used in 2019 to supplement the city's water reserves.

Although Canada has about a fifth of the world's fresh water within its borders, indigenous communities across the country have historically faced water issues.

Iqaluit is the capital of predominantly indigenous Nunavut, Canada's northernmost territory bordering Greenland.

It was in a state of emergency for about two months last year after fuel was found in the Arctic city's water supply that made water unsafe for consumption.

Pope Francis visited Iqaluit late last month on his six-day visit to Canada to apologize to indigenous people for abuse in government schools run by the Roman Catholic church.

(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Ottawa; Editing by Sandra Maler)