The contamination of water is one of the biggest problems facing Nunavut communities today, due to aging infrastructure. Water which should be potable comes out of households' taps with contaminants that include E. coli bacteria, dangerous chemicals and even sewage.
Of 25 communities surveyed in 2014 by the Government of Nunavut's Department of Communityand Government Services, 18 had contamination problems. Department officials also acknowledge that some number of homes in the remaining communities may have contaminated water, but no one has done a survey.
One of the most common contaminants is E. coli bacteria which can cause serious health effects including urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia for young children or babies whose immunity is not fully developed.
In Nunavut, water service lines that were installed in the 1970s and 1980s are reaching the end of their lifespan, and replacement parts like stop valves or meters are hard to come by. "We're now experiencing a situation where we're trying to find those items needed for repairs," says Todd Sasges, the water and wastewater engineer for the Department of Communityand Government Services. "There was nobody here to repair them 20 years ago, so there's no inventory."
The problem is exacerbated by climate change which leads to warmer temperatures that cause ice roads that are necessary for supplies to break up faster than before.
Nunavut has an estimated population of about 36,000. The replacement parts required to decontaminate water are largely unavailable in Canada's North. There is no one company that supplies many of the parts across the country, and shipping costs are prohibitively expensive.
Instead, Nunavut communities have to order their supplies piece-by-piece from southern suppliers, but that means it can take months or years for the parts to arrive.
The Government of Nunavut is currently starting a five-year water and wastewater infrastructure project slated to cost $20 million over its lifetime. The first two years are being spent on design work, which will rely heavily on community input. However, Sasges says it's unclear how much of the project money will go to replacing water lines, or decontaminating the existing ones.
For example, in 2013-14, the Government of Nunavut spent $200,000 on decontaminating water in Sanikiluaq. However, it is unclear how much was spent on replacing water lines.
According to an analysis by the Department of Communityand Government Services published in May 2014,the cost for new sewer and water systems in Igloolik will range from $25 million to $55 million.
Construction is already underway in Kimmirut, where the Government of Nunavut has committed to drinking water that meets drinking water quality standards by September 2015. A new system was built for Maaliqisuaqto meet those same drinking water quality standards sometime after 2014.However, the Government of Nunavut acknowledges that there are many other communities in need of water upgrades. A quick survey of other Western Hudson Bay communities shows that they have less than perfect water too.
Responsible Gambling in Nunavut
Inuit residents of Nunavut in Canada will soon be able to gain access to a new online gambling site that offers cash prizes. The initiative is a partnership between the territory's Department of Environment and AquaZoo, an online casino website rushcasino.com that donates a portion of its earnings toward the protection of wildlife.
Casino games onAquaZoo are free of charge, but players have the option to use their winnings for cash prizes. The site operates using virtual currency that can be exchanged for real Canadian dollars through PayPal or MoneyBookers.
The government hopes that this side benefit will help draw attention away from gambling activities in other parts of Canada, where increased access to online casinos has led to a rise in problem gambling.
"If residents are going to gamble, we might as well encourage them to do it responsibly," said Peter Taptuna, Minister of Economic Development for the territory. "We are offering an alternative that is closely supervised and will not cost Nunavut taxpayers any money."
Residents must first prove their age and identity online before they are allowed to gamble. The government's plan is to simply monitor gambling patterns for irregularities, but the use of a privately owned site will mean much less oversight than if this initiative were carried out by a tribal council or federal agency.
According to Canadian law, no person under the age of 18 is permitted to engage in gambling activities. AquaZoo also enforces this law by requiring age verification before players are able to use the site—a step that is not required by any other online casino operating in Canada.
"This is a great opportunity for us to provide an Internet experience that will be just as exciting as playing at land-based casinos but without exposing our youth to the pitfalls associated with gambling," said AquaZoo CEO Robert Lebbin. "It also gives us a chance to give back to our community by protecting aquatic life."
The partnership between AquaZoo and Nunavut is the first of its kind in Canada, but activists are interested in seeing whether other areas may follow suit in the future.