Whitehorse has 7 million cubic metres of treated wastewater that it needs to get rid of this year.
Normally it would pump this water into a storage pond, like Pothole Lake.
But the lake is full, and that means that 7 billion litres of water need to be pumped into the Yukon River.
The city has already released treated wastewater into the river.
A new pipeline to the river was completed on October 20 and the city used it to discharge water until October 31.
That was when their water licence ended.
Whitehorse has been licensed to dump its treated water into the Yukon since 1993, but hasn’t had to do so until now.
The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board recently permitted the city to continue discharging the water between September 1 and December 15.
But the city now has to get the application past the Yukon Territory Water Board.
“This isn’t a criticism of either the city or the YESAB decision,” said Yukon Conservation Society executive director Karen Baltgailis.
“I guess it’s more a look at what our lifestyle is like and why we have to do this.”
The reason they have to do this is that Pothole Lake is full.
The lake is where the city has been diverting its treated water for the past 14 years.
The water used to trickle down, filtering through the earth and eventually reaching the Yukon River.
Recently, the water hasn’t been filtering through as quick as before and more cloudy days have cut down on evaporation.
The water has been adding up and the lake is now full, forcing the city to divert it to the river.
“And nobody’s tested for what else could be in that water,” said Baltgailis.
“The water could still contain things like pharmaceuticals, cleaning products and cosmetics that people have flushed down the drains.
“Basically what we’re saying is that there are a lot of reasons to moderate our water use.”
The society would like people to be more conscientious about how much water they use and perhaps cut back on long, daily showers and frequent toilet flushing.
They would also like to see water meters installed in the city, in the hope that this would help people cut back.
“We need to do this partly because we don’t want to directly discharge water into the Yukon River,” said Baltgailis.
“But it also takes energy to pump the water, so it’s an energy saving thing as well.”
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