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Facing water issues, NWT looks to expand monitoring system

Water levels in the Northwest Territories are becoming big news.

Too little water to power the hydro system left the territorial government $20 million out of pocket in extra diesel costs this winter.

What happens to the water system affects everything from flooding to drought and the risk of wildfires, while the Dene Nation worries about the impact on northern water levels if plans to construct a dam on British Columbia’s Peace River go ahead.

“People are paying more attention to it,” said Bob Reid, who helps to oversee a network of 92 water monitoring stations in the territory.

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In detail: Look up real-time NWT water data

Operation of the monitoring program has recently devolved to the territorial government. Now, with water at the heart of some important issues facing the territory, expansion of the system is planned.

“I think it’s becoming a little easier to make expansion plans work,” Reid told Moose FM.

“I’ve already been working with the GNWT staff, looking at a small network expansion. Nothing is finalized but we’ve started the preliminary work and we’re looking at installing an additional 14 stations over the next year or two.”

The NWT currently has a system of 92 stations monitoring water levels across the territory.

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According to Reid, a consultant identified ‘gaps’ in the system in a study conducted five years ago. In 2013, 42 new monitoring sites were recommended.

Now, plans are being drawn up to get systems installed at the 14 highest-priority sites. Environment Canada says they could be in place by this summer.

“When funding permits and workloads allow, I would expect most of the 42 stations would be activated,” said Reid.

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