City digs new water sources

Whitehorse is abandoning Schwatka Lake as a source of city tap water, opting instead for two new wells being dug in the outskirts of Riverdale.

Whitehorse is abandoning Schwatka Lake as a source of city tap water, opting instead for two new wells being dug in the outskirts of Riverdale.

The wells will allow the city to meet new federal water regulations without having to build a treatment plant on the banks of Schwatka Lake.

Most city water is already obtained from underground sources — but in periods of peak demand, additional water has needed to be sucked out of Schwatka.

To meet new federal standards for municipal drinking water, a treatment plant would be required to bring Schwatka Lake water up to code.

“The water has not changed, the regulations have,” said Brian Crist, Whitehorse’s director of operations.

New wells bypass the need for treatment facilities.

“With groundwater, the ground itself acts as a great big filter,” said Crist.

Schwatka Lake water is safe and has served Whitehorse for decades, but it poses several problems that would not exist with groundwater, said Crist.

In the months after winter, spring runoff can cause turbidity in the lake — turning the water into a possible host for waterborne organisms such as giardia and cryptosporidium.

Temperature is also a factor. Cold lake water pulled from beneath the ice can quickly freeze upon entering the city pipe system.

The wells are under construction in Riverdale South close to the fish ladder. On Tuesday night, politicians approved construction of a water main to link these wells to the city water system — a project that is expected to be completed by mid-October.

“It’s a good, reliable, high-quality source of water and it’s right here,” said Crist.