🇬🇱 🇨🇦 Businessmen float idea of shipping Greelandic water to Iqaluit

By Jorge Antunes, Nunatsiaq News - September 21, 2023
Mark Albert (right) and Fred Grootarz say they have a longterm to Iqaluit's water issues: shipping water from Greenland. (Photo Jorge Antunes)
Mark Albert, right, and Fred Grootarz say they have a longterm solution to Iqaluit’s water issues: shipping water from Greenland. (Photo Jorge Antunes)

Two Toronto entrepreneurs say they have a solution to Iqaluit’s water supply needs: They’ll ship it in from Greenland.

Fred Grootarz and Mark Albert want to use tankers to transport the water to Iqaluit’s port, where it would be stored year-round in electrically heated tanks.

Albert calls the plan “a perfect fit” for Iqaluit.

Greenland is close by and wants to export its water, he says, and Iqaluit would get dependable access to water year-round.

“The simple fact is that Nunavut is a four-day transit time from our supply,” Albert said.

According to government-owned Greenland Travel, the Greenlandic Ice Sheet contains about seven per cent of all the fresh water reserves on Earth, a fact the region has been trying to exploit since 2001.

Greenland issues licenses to its glacier melt and companies can use them to collect water and export it.

The pair are continuing to knock on doors seeking support for their proposal but so far response appears to be lukewarm.

The proponents

Between them, Grootarz and Albert have more than 100 years of international cargo shipping and logistics experience.

Grootarz was an instructor and continues to lecture for the Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association and has run his own shipping agencies.

Albert previously ran a company that shipped general cargo to Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, the U.S., and parts of South Asia. In 2000, he says, his company began shipping desalinated water from California to Israel. That company was eventually sold.

Albert said he and Grootarz reached out to Canada’s federal government to provide funding for their idea, including Toronto-area Liberal MP James Maloney who chairs the Ontario Liberal MPs’ caucus.

He said Maloney expressed interest in the proposal, adding Conservative MPs Melissa Lantsman, Gary Vidal and Bob Zimmer also seemed interested.

Despite numerous requests, none of the four MPs responded to Nunatsiaq News’ requests for interviews to discuss the Albert-Grootarz proposal.

Nunatsiaq News also reached out to Navarana Beveridge, Denmark’s honourary consul for Nunavut, as well as the Nunavut Water Board with requests to discuss the Albert-Grootarz plan.

Neither agreed to speak.

Does Iqaluit fit the plan?

Albert and Grootarz say they have not yet contacted anyone at the Government of Nunavut or the City of Iqaluit to discuss their proposal.

The growing city of Iqaluit has been aware of water-supply issues since 2005. Leaders set up a task force to deal with low water levels in the city’s reservoir, Lake Geraldine, in 2018, and called states of emergencies in 2019 and 2022 when the problem arose again.

In April 2022, the federal government committed $214 million to improve Iqaluit’s water infrastructure, including funding for a second reservoir near Lake Geraldine.

Interest at the federal level waned after this announcement, Albert said.

“My feeling is the Liberals felt they’d done their duty,” he said.

The target set by the city and the federal government for Iqaluit’s new reservoir — to effectively double Iqaluit’s water supply with an additional 1.2 billion litres — is still three years away.

Water licenses for both Apex River and Unnamed Lake will expire in 2025 and the city will have to apply for renewal. However, there is no reason to believe that if the city needed to extend its license that it wouldn’t be able to, says Kent Driscoll, spokesperson for the City of Iqaluit.

Speaking of the Grootarz-Albert proposal, Driscoll said, “They want to put [the water] in tanks that we have to pay for; at a tank farm that we have to pay for; with a specific docking facility, that we would have to pay for.”

He noted the tanks would have to be heated using electricity, which would require diesel generators.

“They want to create a city-sponsored sole-source business that’s going to increase greenhouse gases,” Driscoll said.

That said, Driscoll said if Grootarz and Albert submit a proposal, the city would consider it.

Located in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada, Nunatsiaq News is dedicated to covering affairs in Nunavut and the Nunavik territory of Quebec since 1973. It has been a partner to ArcticToday and its predecessors since 2016.

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