The federal government is kicking in $25.8-million to replace an aging water pipe which supplies Yellowknife’s drinking water.

The money for the replacement of the 8.5-kilometre pipe, which draws drinking water from the Yellowknife River to the city’s water treatment plant, comes through the federal Disaster Mitigation and Adaption Fund. The city is also contributing $8.6-million, 25 per cent of which hasn’t yet been secured.

Mayor Rebecca Alty says she hopes the remaining amount will come from other levels of government, although it could end up with the city footing the bill in its 2020 budget.

“Our hope is through other orders of government. So we’re working with the GNWT as well as looking at other federal pots,” she says. “If not, then we’d have go to taxes.”

The water pipe was installed in 1968, paid for by the federal government and the two gold mines active in Yellowknife at the time. The pipe was originally constructed due to fears by the federal government of arsenic contamination from Giant Mine says Alty, fears which persist today.

“We still have concerns about, if anything were to happen at Giant and the arsenic comes into the water, then it would impact our drinking water for about three months, minimum,” she says.

The route of the existing water pipeline from the Yellowknife River to the city. AECOM/City of Yellowknife map

The option of replacing the aging pipe was recommended in a 2017 study of water supply options. Another option examined was to draw water from Yellowknife Bay, which would only have costed an estimated $18.2-million compared to $33-million for the Yellowknife River pipe replacement. Despite the higher cost, replacing the pipe was seen as less of a risk for arsenic contamination should a major failure occur during Giant Mine remediation.

Alty says the federal money announced Wednesday is helpful for the city as it works on other large capital projects.

“It greatly relieves that pressure,” she says. “We were getting close to our borrowing limit, because we’d still have the water treatment plant on the books plus this water submarine line plus the pool.”