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Water Safety Research in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut is Off to a Successful Start

Water Safety Research in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut is Off to a Successful Start


Published on May 16, 2024

In mid-April, Dahdaleh graduate scholar Caroline Duncan, Dahdaleh faculty fellow Professor Stephanie Gora, and Audrey Tam from the Safe and Sustainable Water Research Group at York University arrived in Cambridge Bay to hold the first week of a pilot program in water operator training for youth held at the Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS). This initiative received financial support from the Community Capacity Building Fund through the Nunavut Association of Municipalities (NAM). During the program, Caroline, Stephanie and Audrey oversaw three paid interns helping with water collection and analysis from the source water, treatment plant, trucks, water tanks and taps. The interns learned about water management, basic maths and experienced a day in the life of a water operator as well as learning how to take turbidity, pH, and free chlorine measurements in the lab at CHARS. Data gathered during the pilot training program will feed into Caroline’s doctoral research.

Having completed this initial week of training, Caroline is now in the heart of her research, dedicating the next 7 weeks to the collection of water samples for analysis from various buildings in the community and working closely with local operators to perform a community-driven project looking at the biological activity and turbidity during spring freshet. Additionally, Caroline is focused on lead and copper sampling from taps which includes temporary interruptions to water use that can be up to 6 hours. This is no easy feat in the Arctic community and requires plenty of coordination with locals to ensure recirculation pumps are switched off within buildings, and informing all occupants of stagnation periods.

In tandem with the sampling campaign, Caroline is active with engaging with various stakeholder groups within the community including:

  • Water operators
  • Community members and other water users
  • Government regulators
  • Local government representatives
  • Health care workers
  • Housing
  • Other people who interact with different elements of the drinking water systems

These engagement sessions aim to collect stakeholder perspectives on potential water safety hazards associated with drinking water across four key areas: source, treatment, distribution, and buildings.  This is the first phase of dialogue that will lay the groundwork for subsequent sessions, which will focus in on developing creation of a system dynamics model of the current water safety status in Cambridge Bay.

Caroline will visit Cambridge Bay again in September 2024 to undertake a second sampling campaign, followed by another trip in 2025 to collaboratively explore policy interventions and treatment options with stakeholders aimed at enhancing water safety.

The community’s warm reception and willingness to participate in Caroline’s research, underscores the importance of relationship and trust building with stakeholders. Establishing these connections ahead of time and taking the time to nurture them in person on the ground has not only facilitated the (to date) smooth execution of the two-month long field trip, but has also been instrumental in the overall success of Caroline’s research.

Caroline will return to Toronto in early June and will be holding a special seminar on her time and initial results from the field in late June at the Lassonde School of Engineering.


Global Health & Humanitarianism



Related Work





Stephanie Gora, Faculty Fellow, Lassonde School of Engineering Active
Caroline Diana Duncan, Dahdaleh Global Health Graduate Scholar, Lassonde School of Engineering Active

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