Consultation on the revised draft of the Water Withdrawal Regulations
The Standing Committee on Natural Resources and Environmental Sustainability considers issues concerning agriculture, fisheries, land, water, forests, wildlife, energy, natural resources, environment, climate change, and issues related to natural resources and the environment.
The Water Act was passed in 2017 and will be in force on June 16, 2021. Regulations to accompany the Act are being developed and the Committee would like to hear your input on the revised consultation draft of the Water Withdrawal Regulations.
If you or your organization would like to share your views, send us your comments by April 17, 2021, to:
- email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- fax: 902-368-5175
- hand delivery: Office of the Clerk, 197 Richmond Street (Church Street entrance)
- fill in this feedback form (please type "Water Withdrawal Regulations" in the subject)
Submissions will be published on this page.
Read the submissions to the committee
Tony Reddin & Marion Copleston,
We are happy to see the Water Act proclaimed, but unfortunately there is a big mistake in the regulations for holding ponds filled from multiple wells. The problem is that together, those wells can draw as much water as a high capacity well. And under the regulations, those wells are allowed to continue pumping for the next five years. That would clearly be a threat to the water levels in local wells and streams, especially during times of drought.
As was proposed in the draft regulations, and as the all-party Legislative Committee recommended, there should not be any exemptions for compliance with the Water Act regulations, and there should be an immediate ban on new holding ponds.
Government is instead planning to give this exemption to existing holding ponds, and any others put in by June 16th. This error is encouraging farmers to build more huge well-water-fed ponds, increasing the demand on groundwater supply that is already stressed in some places. Those ponds also waste precious water due to increased evaporation.
In the rush to beat the regulation, there may be many new ponds being dug out as you read this.
There does need to be good policy to conserve groundwater and regulate large-scale irrigation in these times of climate change and frequent drought. That should include:
- Requiring a minimum soil organic matter of at least 3% in irrigated fields (so maximum water is retained in the topsoil and used by the crop),
- Metering and setting strict limits to amounts of water use for irrigation,
- Mandating best practice irrigation to reduce evaporation (e.g., time of day),
- Encouraging good tillage, crop rotation and cropping methods for water conservation,
- Expanding hedgerows, and
- Extensive forest conservation and tree planting to enhance groundwater retention.
Our province needs a Water Act with regulations that will really protect our precious water resources.
I support and encourage the continuing courageous, collaborative and non-partisan work being done in service to all Islanders by the Standing Committee on Natural Resources and Sustainability.
Today, I just read your request for submissions in The Guardian. I am aware the Minister assumes full responsibility for all decisions made on this matter and does not respect the input of the committee. I assume he is influenced by corporate sponsors of his political party. I am aware of members of School Boards and Health Authorities resigning in mass when it became apparent they had little influence on decisions - it must feel sad to work hard to preserve the integrity of this resource and be left in the back seat
I would like to provide feedback in regards to high capacity wells. I would also like to mention that I do have a BSC in Geology, so I have some knowledge in this area.
High capacity wells are a bad idea. The science is actually not all that difficult to follow. You are going to have drawdown on the water table around a deep well and that can result in drying shallow wells .. as well as in areas closer to shore lines, you could increase salt water intrusion, draw down of water levels on streams and brooks, etc. And then add drought on top of that. It is a terrible idea to even think about it. Drought conditions are going to be worse for PEI in the future.
Violation of the rules to allow surface water removal from the Dunk River is not acceptable during a drought. So where exactly would you think the water is coming from during a drought condition when you do this? The only source would be ground water.
Farming practices should change. Allowing deep wells will not cut it.. You should look at other things such as promoting vertical farming, which uses less water for the crops that can benefit from that. Some farmland should even be removed from being farmed...based upon what I see in satellite and topography maps...
Wanting to allow deep wells using the excuse "whataboutthemism" is not an excuse to allow farmers to do it.. That is simply ridiculous to even suggest it in this time of climate change being a real issue.. The legislation needs to be more strictly enforced and applied to more to eliminate that "whataboutthemism" excuse.
The city of Charlottetown could have reduced their water consumption more if they had the foresight to use their grey water instead of dumping it into the Hillsborough river when they separate the lines a few years back. We do know the history with the Winter River. Climate conditions are worse now...
It is better to be safe than sorry.
You need to consider the following points:
- Grandfathering holding ponds is short-sighted.
- Water use has to be considered on a watershed-by-watershed basis, not based on provincial recharge averages.
- What’s likely to be fine in some areas won’t be in others.
- This decision is making some farmers winners and others losers.
- We need to ensure ALL farmers have access to a fair share of the water, not just those who built holding ponds.
- The Dunk River is one of few on PEI that still has a population of Atlantic Salmon!
Linda M. Gaudet
I am very upset with the government's decision, against the best information available, to grandfather certain holding ponds. There are many reasons for my concern. These ponds give an unfair advantage to some farmers, usually though not always those using unsustainable farming methods, who are acting to protect only their own interests, without considering the impact on their local watershed.
Water use must be considered and managed on a watershed by watershed basis. Allowing these holding ponds is very short-sighted. What we need is strict compliance with the law by all, and strong enforcement against all who defy the law. Drought may become a regular feature of PEI summers. We need laws and policies that protect our most precious resource and also encourage better and more sustainable soil and water management practices.
Please re-think the regulations allowing these holding ponds and do not protect the large corporate farming interests who care nothing about PEI, but only their own profits.
We do not want these illegal holding ponds grandfathered in before the Act is proclaimed. They should be shut down. Islanders require a Water Act that protects islanders and has real teeth to stop the industrial potato corporations-Irvings.
First of all I want to say this " I appreciate the hard work of the Legislature's Natural Resources and Environmental Sustainability Committee" It is with a lot of concern and a fair amount of frustration that I write to your committee today, with my input on the Water Act Regulations. Let me firstly address my frustration. I have gone to numerous meetings over the past six to seven years on the concern for our land and water and the way they have been threatened by unsustainable practices. I can also say from this experience a large majority of islanders have expresses great concern over the threats to our soil health and water in this province. I was hopeful with the change in government and committees been appointed that more equally represent all parties and the va riant concerns of all islanders; that change would happen. With the water act to be proclaimed and the initial recommendations of the committee, I had further hope for positive change. That hope has been dashed with the ministers recent statements on not listening to the committee’s recommendations and adapting regulations that would grandfather in all holding ponds built before June !6th of this year .This is a loophole that very much weakens the Act in terms of its intent.
Now to my concerns if this goes ahead as the minister has suggested.
- It is very short sited in that it promotes further, the model of huge industrialized potato farms and a continuing degradation of our land, water, environment and intern our health.
- It does little to promote the smaller farmer or preserve these resources,(land and water)for the future generations who want to farm.
- Dry conditions may become a regular trait of our PEI summers and we will need laws and policies that protect our land and water, and encourage better, and more sustainable management practices. These holding ponds will do little to encourage the above.
Our Environment minister has indicated his actions is not a circumvention of the Water Act .He needs to be asked ,why is he disregarding the committee and Islanders input ,by allowing the continuation of holding ponds to be built and grandfathered in before the act is proclaimed .He may also need to be reminded by this committee of the status of the last Government ,that didn't listen to Islanders concerns on matters such as these.
Stop giving anyway our water to farmers that poison us and ruin the land with pesticides. This is scientifically proven, if only the government’s greed could see past this. It is completely unacceptable to allow farmers past, present, and future to dig holding ponds and allow them to be grandfathered in. This disgusts me, things like this make me want to move away and raise my kids somewhere where I know they're health and safety will be valued. I only buy from island organic farmers and that's what all my friends do too. Organic is the future and it tastes better! You're all shooting yourselves in the foot.
The Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water
We appreciate your invitation for submissions concerning the revised regulations of the Water Act, and the work of the multiparty Standing Committee and your efforts to bring forth meaningful recommendations about the Act after careful deliberation. But we must confess that we approach this process with both wariness and weariness, being mindful of the quote often attributed to Einstein: “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” We believe we made a careful and comprehensive presentation to you last fall covering a range of concerns about the regulations and the Water Act, as did other groups and individuals. We felt your committee heard us well, and took our perspective, and those of others into consideration and brought forth a set of meaningful recommendations after careful deliberation.
And so we were disturbed to see your work dismissed by a Minister of Environment so new that the ink had barely dried on his mandate papers. Minister Myers, and so the King government made it very clear that all decision making rested with him alone, and that the role of your committee was only advisory. And so, he ignored the advice in your recommendations, save one: he did agree to proclaim the Water Act. To use and extend his metaphor: Minister Myers would drive the car, and Premier King would set the route. The rest of us could just go along for the ride.
And by casually dismissing the value of consultation with his own multiparty government committee, Minister Myers also made it abundantly clear that he rejected any meaningful consultation with Islanders who have been deeply involved and concerned about water issues for many years and had worked collaboratively with previous ministers in developing this legislation.
We need to remind ourselves, and the committee, that the process for the development of the Water Act reflected an exemplary process of public consultation, where there was meaningful collaboration between government and citizens: where government was responsive to requests for transparent processes and was flexible in creating many opportunities for public input. As citizens, we began to sense a growing trust in government and feel that our voices could be heard and valued. Minister Mitchell even acknowledged the important role of the Coalition in developing the Water Act in the Legislature.
And after 8 years of work, and 7 different Ministers of the Environment (we met with each one), it has come to this. We are all summarily dismissed by a new minister with a leadership style that can accurately be described as bullying.
Trust in government’s ability to protect our water, to resist corporate influence and to listen to citizens has eroded particularly in the 3 ½ years since the Water Act was passed. Fishkill’s, anoxic conditions, and high nitrate levels continue in our waters. Last summer, the government violated its own regulations in permitting 5 farmers to extract water from the Dunk River, when water levels were dangerously low.
There have been long, inexplicable periods of inaction and silence as we awaited the development, and then the revision of regulations for the Act. Part of this delay resulted from requirements instituted by previous Minister Brad Trivers to provide the multiparty Standing Committee with a more active role in the review of regulations and changes, and to provide ample time for your work.
The long time delay between the passage and proclamation of the Act has also provided an extended opportunity for the development of holding ponds, in contravention of the spirit of the water act and the moratorium on high capacity- wells. It seems ironic that a government that itself had less than a year ago proposed and agreed to a motion to declare a moratorium on holding ponds, a proposal supported by present Minister Myers and past Minister Jameson, is now leaving all doors open to their development. And it is disturbing that all existing holding ponds will be grandfathered. And while they will be required to be compliant with some requirements of the regulations by 2026, there will be no limits on the amount of water that they can extract, in perpetuity. In fact, they will be treated the same as the existing high-capacity wells built before the moratorium was declared.
And while the government has approved the study on the impacts of high-capacity wells before considering lifting the moratorium they have shown little to no interest in examining the effects of holding ponds.
In effect the failure to regulate holding ponds legitimizes the government breaking its own regulations for moratoriums on high-capacity wells. The wells for holding ponds can extract unlimited amounts of water for five years. The Water Act (Sec 35(b)) also allows municipalities to break the rules and exceed regulated amounts.
The limiting condition would seem to be identifying “unacceptable, adverse effects.” But as we’ve seen on the Dunk River, such effects can be dismissed due to “extenuating circumstances”. The long history of unsustainable water extraction from the Winter River by the City of Charlottetown clearly indicates how reluctant the Department and its water experts are to identify such adverse effects in the face of powerful interests.
We have reached a new low point in public trust.
And so, we are understandably wary and weary about making recommendations in the face of such indifference and unresponsiveness on the part of government.
Ann Wheatley, Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water
Thank you for inviting us to, once again, comment on the PEI Water Act’s draft water withdrawal regulations. This has been a long process, made more complicated by changes in government and in Ministers responsible for the Act, as well as differing interpretations of the role of your committee.
Our commitment to the process is based on our belief that water is not simply a resource to be extracted, it is not a commodity to be bought or sold or traded. Water is a common good, a shared responsibility and its preservation is essential for the ecosystems that we and all other living beings depend on.
The Coalition for Protection of PEI Water is comprised of both urban and rural individuals including farmers, as well as environmental and community organizations whose “interests” include social justice, democratic process, climate justice, and environmental protection.
In 2019, we spent a significant amount of time reviewing the first draft of the withdrawal regulations, line by line. We met on several occasions with the then Minister, Deputy Minister, and the Department staff who were responsible (and still are responsible) for writing the regulations. We are resubmitting these (attached) comments for your information. In addition, we would like to make the following points, in response to the revised draft regulations and current public discussions.
1. Drought contingency plans:
This is an area that we feel requires more detail, beginning with a definition of what exactly constitutes a plan “acceptable to the Minister” pursuant to section 5(2)(c) and section 8(2)(c). The definition of a drought contingency plan and its anticipated parameters should be within the regulation.
Moreover, the plans, according to sections 5 and 8 of the regulations would be submitted at the discretion of the Minister, and then, only at the time of application for a permit or re-application for a permit. Should a drought contingency plan not be required as a prerequisite to any permit to extract water? In the alternative should not the Minister be entitled to ask for such a plan at any time over the duration of a permit should circumstances necessitate a reduction in extraction volume? This is particularly relevant in those permits which involve larger volumes of water.
2. Information to be submitted upon application for and reporting on the use of a water withdrawal permit:
We would like to comment on the amount of discretion that rests with the Minister of the Environment regarding the information to be supplied pursuant to section 5 by anyone seeking a water withdrawal permit (or section 8 renewal). The collection and submission of data, test results and other information are a fundamental prerequisite to good decision making. The unspecified nature, content and purpose of such any discretionary request by the Minister does the opposite of what regulations are aimed to do: provide clear guidelines for the types of information that is required in decision-making as well as providing data as to the ongoing state and health of PEI water.
We suggest this is one of the areas in which “the Minister may” be changed to “the Minister shall”. And although the particulars of a specific permit (including its location, volume and purpose) may result in differing requirements as to the scope and depth of such submissions, once again, it is the regulations that can articulate the different requirements for different applications.
Similar discretion applies to reporting once the permit has been issued. If the province is serious about gathering data regarding the state of Prince Edward Island water, ongoing testing, monitoring and reporting should be a condition of every permit applied for and issued as a section 6 term of permit. This will clarify and supplement the ambiguity in section 7 which provides that data regarding flow and water levels “shall” be provided by the permit holder “as required by the Minister”.
3. Holding ponds:
Groups opposing regulation of holding ponds have made continued reference to the “investment” that farmers have made in holding ponds. We think it is important to point out that the Government’s intention to grandfather holding ponds has been quite beneficial to those who made and who continue to make these “investments”.
Since no approval was or is required, none of the considerations (discretionary or otherwise) in issuing a permit for holding ponds were reviewed by the Department. Thus, the consideration of adverse impacts, conditions of operation, testing, reporting, or drought contingency plans do not apply to existing holding ponds and those that will be completed before June 16th.
Holding ponds are not only allowed to continue in place, but in essence have carte blanche for the next five years. By grandfathering them in we have not only permitted their existence but allowed them to extract water to fill those ponds limited only by sections 5(7) and 5(8) read in conjunction with section 4(2).
As for existing holding ponds, Dr. Michael van den Heuvel is among those speaking in favour of ponds for irrigation. He recently commented in the media on the benefits of filling ponds in the spring as a way to reduce the need for surface water extraction in the summer.
We wish to point out that no studies have been done, and no data collected on the impacts of holding ponds. Section 77(7) of the Water Act exempts existing holding ponds as described in section 4(2) of the regulations from permit requirements for five years. As important, subsection 5(8) of the regulations goes on to outline possible water volumes within these holding ponds as "hav[ing] a water withdrawal rate of 345 cubic metres OR MORE per day under subsection 4(2)." Therefore, multiple pumps can be operating 24/7; there is nothing to prevent them from pumping even after they are filled in the spring, especially if there has been little snow or rain to fill those ponds or if we find ourselves in summer drought conditions.
In the absence of a complete moratorium on holding ponds (which was supported by the current and past Ministers in the PEI Legislature just under a year ago), regulations specific to holding ponds should be drafted as quickly as possible to ensure they are operating without adverse effects. Information about how holding ponds are monitored as well as standards and monitoring data should be made publicly available. While some of the proposed regulations do in fact address holding ponds, they are not easy to find or understand. A subheading within the regulations to address "Holding Pond Water Withdrawal Permit", distinct from the existing "Water Withdrawal Permit" subheading would add clarity to the scope of this water use and effectively address the unique attributes of this alternative irrigation approach.
John te Raa
There is nothing in the proposed regulations to prevent construction of high capacity wells near streams.
I made a presentation on the subject (in Souris) during the consultation period on the Water Act. Specifically I presented evidence on the impact on water levels in the Winter River from the pumping station on the Union Road.
I had discussions with Committee members at that time after my presentation. They indicated that my subject matter would be addressed in the regulations.
The lack of addressing this matter in the regulations is of concern. In my opinion, the Government does not want to be restricted in any way with such restriction.
A case in point is the location of the new well field for the City of Charlottetown in the Coles Creek. This was approved by Government. I suppose we should be grateful that the well field is not near the head waters of the Coles Creek, like the Brackley and Union pumping stations.
The Government knew that there would be a potential to draw down water levels in the Creek, especially during periods of drought.
To the Government this is acceptable as long as the drawdown does not exceed recharge rates.
My background is Science, specifically I have a Ph.D. in Chemistry.
All the buzz words about 'let the science speak' are buzz words.
Pictures are worth a thousand words they say. Attached are two pictures taken from a Scientific study done on the Hydrology of the Winter River (Francis 1989).
Why are the regulations silent on this subject?
John te Raa
The matter of high capacity wells and or multiple small wells locations relative to streams and springs.
As of today, I have not received a response to my email sent, on April 13, to the Deputy Minister of Environment with the following question.
My question is;
Can your Department model the effect of reduced well yield vs increased streamflow as the wells are moved away from the stream?
What would the well yield curve look like for the first 500 meters distance from the stream?
Today is the Committee’s deadline for submissions. I wish to submit further comments to the Committee without the benefit of a reply from the Deputy. I have also read the transcript of the November Committee meeting.
Where among other things Department staff said that they deal with applications on a first come first serve bases. In watersheds with a limited water resource for irrigation, this will become an issue.
Farmers with readily available resources, both financially and engineering wise, will scoop up the cheap water from wells dug near streams and springs. Once this water is allotted other farmers will be forced to dig wells away from streams where they do not impact streamflow. The cost of this water will be much higher. This is not fair.
As it stands now, a single farmer can tie up all the water if allowed to dig wells within 50 feet of a stream. The data is there. Just look at what the City is allowed to do at the Union Road station. Five wells within 50 feet of the Winter River.
The regulations have to address this matter.
Setting wells back from the streams will reduce impact on the streams at time of irrigation. Regulations have to clearly state that no well for irrigation purposes shall be dug within X meters at the source of a stream. No well for irrigation shall be dug within Y meters near the river outlet.
I had hoped to hear from the Deputy to get some perspective on what the values of X and Y might be.
The point is, in my view, that with setting the wells back from streams more farmers will have access to water for irrigation on an equitable bases and the direct impact on streams during severe drought conditions will be substantially reduced.
As part of this approach use of surface water for irrigation needs to be banned.
My concern is towards the usage and the amount of water used by the agricultural systems. When you talk about a high capacity well, what does that mean?
A car wash or golf course may use a lot (not sure how much) water for a short time. Perhaps 1/2 hour period depending on cars being washed or specific fairways being irrigated. When the farms use water, I have noticed large tractors driving very large pumps and these units can draw the water level down very quickly. Do they run 12 hours, 24 hours, or whatever?
Just remember that if the water table drops, we are surrounded by salt water and this may give cause for salt water intrusion as water flows from a level to a lower level and if there is a difference because of low water table, water will find a way through our sandy soil.
As far a home usage, at least in the rural areas, you can figure out the usage based on the average number of people in a home, it is very small and most of the water is returned to the ground for a closed cycle.
Please do some calculations of various water users as to quantity, gal/min, etc. How long do the farms run their irrigation systems. Average usage over a period of time, i.e. 24 hrs, week or whatever.
Who decides if a farm is allowed to operate their system after you change the water extraction regulations? Will they need a permit, or something?
Kevin and Lynda Kelly
Dear Assembly Members,
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Act. (Thanks to CBC and Corey Deagle for the contact info this a.m.)
We are concerned that the " Water Act" primarily deals with water for agricultural purposes and not with actual quality of the water for Islanders. A large percentage of Islanders in rural areas obtain their water from wells. The Center for Disease Control recommends that wells be tested annually for contaminants such as E-coli and arsenic, etc., (link below) This week there was an article in the Globe and Mail by a Dalhousie professor raising concerns about the high levels of arsenic in Maritime wells which is a known carcinogen causing bladder, kidney and prostate cancers. (link below)
Provinces, including Newfoundland and Ontario do not charge for this testing. The costs in PEI have gone up considerably over the past while for water testing - Bacteria is $46 and Chemical $109. The costs of these tests are a barrier for many to ensure they have safe drinking water. Many Islanders do not get their water tested or do it very rarely.
Should not the Water Act's primary concern be for safe drinking water for all Islanders? If this is important to the Assembly then these problems need to be addressed and any barriers, financial or otherwise be removed for Islanders. We would like to see one free test per year for bacteria and one every 3 years for chemicals for each household. This would also provide savings to the Health Care system as the costs of treating the diseases caused by this escalates.
Many thanks for your consideration of this matter
The Canadian Gov't has studied PEI groundwater and aquifers for over 100 years. Some of the results are on the internet and other papers are available from Ottawa.
Much of what I have read refers to Salt Water Intrusion caused by over pumping of freshwater creating lower pressure in the aquifers creating Salt Water Intrusion.
Is PEI violating The Canada Water Act by allowing Deep Wells for testing?
Six years of pumping is nothing more than guaranteeing water for irrigation to a few at the risk of ruining our freshwater supply.
I understand these test wells will be owned by the PEI Gov't , so any adverse problems will be at Taxpayers Expense.
In six years Cavendish will have their huge Alberta Project operating and will thumb their nose at PEI.
Darragh Mogan, Chair
Ellen's Creek Watershed Group
The Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water has made a submission to the committee on the above captioned item. On behalf of the Ellen's Creek Watershed Group which I chair, I would like to express our support for the work of the Coalition and for its submission to the committee.
Winter River-Tracadie Bay Watershed Association
John te Raa
The attached Word document was sent directly to Cory Deagle's email address on April 11. I didn't receive an acknowledgement of receipt from him.
I wish to submit this document to the Committee for consideration in its discussions.
April 11, 2021
Natural Resources and Sustainability Committee.
Mr. Cory Deagle, Chair
Subject: Ending Moratorium on high capacity wells
I agree with you that the moratorium should be ended……………….……..BUT.
I agree that all farm operations, large, small, industrial or organic, should have access to water for irrigation……………BUT.
My concern is the fact that the regulations, as proposed, do not place any restrictions on the location of high capacity wells relative to the location of streams and springs.
We need to place, in the regulations, restrictions on the location of these wells.
There is a proposal to study the use of high capacity wells for agricultural purposes. The study will take at least six years before any conclusions can be drawn. I do not know the terms of reference for the study. I do hope that it includes studying the increasing negative effects on water levels during the summer/early Fall in streams as wells get placed closer to streams.
Until such studies are complete, we have to place restrictions on well locations.
In the mean time we have to base the regulations on existing scientific data.
I refer to the extensive study done on the Winter River watershed in the early 1980th.
Hydrogeology of the Winter River Basin
Prince Edward Island
Rory M. Francis
Water Resources Branch
Department of Environment
Prince Edward Island
Under the current act and its regulations, what was allowed to happen in the Winter River should no longer be allowed in any new high capacity well field construction. This should apply for all applications including municipal systems.
I wish to highlight a couple of paragraphs in the study.
1) The data from the Winter River has relevance to the other watersheds on Prince Edward Island.
A) Section 5.1 of Hydrologic budget
The annual hydroloøc budget for typical Prince Edward Island watersheds is shown in Table 16. The location of these watersheds is shown in Figure 55. Streamflow accounts for 60 to 70% of total precipitation on an annual basis while evapotranspiration is estimated at 30 to 40%. It is notable that these values do not vary substantially across the province, being a function of the general similarity of climate, physiography, and geology. In small subwatersheds, (less than 10 km 2) underflow is probably significant as groundwater recharge within the basin, which would normally contribute to the Q component, discharges some distance downstream of the stream gauging station. The Emerald Creek system is illustrative (Table 16).
B) Section 5.3 Effect of groundwater withdrawals
This scenario suggests that at Suffolk the streamflow, baseflow, and thus recharge characteristics of the system are now quite similar to the unpumped watersheds of Morell, Wilmot, and Dunk Rivers
2) Results section 8.1.2 Effect of Ground Water Withdrawals
Well fields at Union and Brackley currently provide the City of Charlottetown and surrounding municipalities with about 5.0 x 10 6 m s of groundwater each year. This demand has doubled in the past 30 years and, while relatively constant for the last 10 years, demands on the Winter River well fields have continued to increase as the production from the 'Malpeque' systems has been reduced.
Analysis of the hydrologic budget for the Brackley and Suffolk sub-watersheds showed that groundwater withdrawals have reduced baseflow and total streamflow. In the Brackley subwatershed, annual pumping is reducing streamflow by 53% and baseflow by 70%, in the Union sub-watershed by 39% and 54% respectively, and at Suffolk, 17% and 24%. However, in no part of the watershed is pumping exceeding annual recharge. No continual lowering of the water table should therefore occur, nor has it been observed at observation wells in and near the well fields.
Results of groundwater-surface water interaction studies show that, in close proximity to the well fields, baseflow is rapidly diverted toward pumping wells and away from the stream. Downward gradients beneath the streambed and reduced seepage flux were observed. Induced recharge may occur periodically. Streamflow's dependence on groundwater baseflow during the summer-fall months means that acceptable baseflow levels must be maintained. The residual baseflows (normal baseflow minus pumping) at Brackley are less than 10% during the August-September period, at Union, generally greater than 30% but only about 13% in September, and greater than 60% all year at Suffolk. The effects at Brackley and Union result in dry streambeds during the late summer of some years.
You may ask whether or not what happens in the Winter River has any relevance to large scale use of water in agricultural applications. After all irrigation only takes place over a 6 week period vs the City of Charlottetown which pumps 24/7 365 days per year.
Let’s put some numbers in context.
As shown above the City pumps 5 million cubic meters of water annually from the Brackley and Union well fields.
That is 5 million square meters of water one meter deep.
At 10,000 square meters per hectare. That is 500 hectares, one meter deep.
Or 5,000 hectares 10 cm deep.
A potato farmer told me that one inch of rain per week is ideal for potato grows.
10 cm of water is equivalent to four weeks of irrigation.
I am not familiar with the Dunk River and the potato acreage growing in the watershed.
It seems to me that 5,000 hectares or 12,000 acres maybe a possibility.
My point is that the Winter River data is very relevant to industrial scale irrigation in the Dunk River Watershed. We cannot let the Dunk River suffer the same fate as the Winter River.
Yes, I agree with you that the moratorium on high capacity wells should be lifted BUT the regulations have to address the location of wells relative to streams to minimize impact on streams.
How close to streams can these wells be?
I don’t know.
An external source for reference is Dr. Cathy Ryan, University of Alberta.
She addressed this matter, unfortunately I can’t recall if this was in private communications or whether she addressed it at the UPEI seminar a number of years ago.
Dr. Ryan is a professor cross-appointed to Geoscience and Environmental Sciences at the University of Calgary with a long interest in agricultural impacts on water quality. She leads a team of hydrogeologists working with agricultural scientists to understand groundwater in the fractured sandstone on Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia as part of the Canadian Water Network’s Secure Source Water Network.
Best wishes to you and the Committee.
To Whom It May Concern
Small land owners now are allowed to have holding tanks or barrels to collect runoff, rainfall and snow melt. There seems to be no debate on this.
The towns and cities are putting wells further out into the country drying up streams for washing streets, cars and supplying cruse ships. Again seems to be no problem with this.
Developers are building sub divisions and apartment buildings some of them on prime farm land. These will be using water 24/7 year round. Again seems to be no problem with this.
When a farmer wishes to use water for a few weeks in some summers many people do not want to allow it, they just want the water for themselves. The amount of people that live in a few of these new apartment buildings will have more voice then all the farmers on PEI.
So my views on this issue are....
Large land owners should be allowed to withdraw water on there land based on acres owned and water table level.
Holding ponds to collect runoff, rainfall and snow melt with the size based on acres owned should also be allowed.
PEI Watershed Alliance
On behalf of the board of the PEI Watershed Alliance, I've been asked to forward the attached comments regarding the revised draft of the Water Withdrawal Regulations.
Citizens' Alliance of PEI
Hello, I would like to address these comments to the Standing Committee on Natural Resources and Environmental Sustainability.
Re: the Water Act, Draft regulations.
I appreciate that the Standing Committee is the way for public consultation with new regulations, and look forward to participating in this process as the Water Act is adjusted as time goes on.
Interested citizens and those that have been in office since the Water Act was started to be worked on, appreciate the effort to find the way the public can comment and a committee representing all parties in the legislature can provide some oversight.
It was with some disappointment and confusion that this last set of regulations on water extraction has been dealt with, but it was definitely a difficult task and I greatly appreciate the Committee's efforts not to have taken a back seat in this matter.
It's been very difficult for the average person to understand specifically the changes in this last set of draft regulations, even with the Plain Language summary. I think the Citizens' Alliance of P.E.I. would like there to be no grandfathering of all the holding ponds, especially ones placed in the past years leading up to the Water Act and with various convolutions to obtain the same amount of water or more as from high-capacity wells.
We would also like to see more peer review of any research projects before they are given the "green light".
Thank you again for this opportunity, and good luck with your recommendations.
Hillsborough River Association
Submission to Standing Committee on Natural Resources and Environmental Sustainability
On behalf of the Hillsborough River Association, please consider the following comments respecting Water Withdrawal Regulations.
1. Irrigation holding ponds (those fed from multiple wells) - such construction should have been stopped already.
2. Enhancement of Water Recharge - The Standing Committee should be addressing the needs for water recharge and the encouragement of techniques that support water recharge capacity e.g. retention of forest cover, planting of trees and shrubs on non-forested land, a requirement for water conservation plans to address land clearing of forests and hedgerows, hedgerow planting, and other water recharge techniques. Those requesting permits for high capacity wells or irrigation holding pond wells should be demonstrating good water conservation practices.
3. Creation of water interception ponds - Agricultural Engineers should be used to develop water interception ponds to trap surface water flow for subsequent use for agricultural irrigation and trapping of sediment and nutrients from agricultural land.
4. Provisions for well replacement at residential homes - In cases where domestic wells or possibly livestock watering wells become dry or become contaminated by saltwater intrusion because of nearby high capacity well use or high volume pumping of water for holding ponds filled from multiple wells, the permit should be suspended and the permit holder(s) be required to immediately replace the well(s) at no cost to the landowner whose well has gone dry.
5. Regulation clarifications: 4(d) - add the applicants prior implementation of enhanced water recharge measures. Re 5(4)(a)(I) - should watersheds be single?
In respect to the Agriculture Irrigation Research Projects Policy, EWCC does not appear to be defined. Under 3c, government regulators should be added. Under 5a, who assesses this aspect. Should there not be a reference to compliance with research ethics requirements for matters such as a well running dry or becoming contaminated by saltwater intrusion?
Island water management is desperately far from being adequately science-based… and, it appears as if its Departmental overseers seemingly don’t want it to be adequately science-based. I believe that I have clearly demonstrated this (in a science-based way), in a roughly 90 page submission (it takes a lot of room to debunk Departmental disinformation).
I have a comment after much reading and consideration of other opinions, such as this one in front of the Environmental and Resources Committee, Mike van den Heuval, the UPEI biologist who has been proposing the study on high-capacity wells, was asked his opinion about what the level of streamflow reduction would be safe. He responded that “as a good precautionary guideline, I think 20 per cent is a good number.”
How did the 30% streamflow reduction rate become the "red flag" warning moment become established on PEI when international standards have been typically lower?
Watershed groups were told to consider a 25% streamflow reduction to be the moment that strict withdrawl regulations are to imposed.
Please consider adopting the well advised 25% reduction level in waterflow to be the new rate to be used in all watersheds on PEI.
Shoreline and Island communities around the world have invited salt water intrusions into their potable water supplies by withdrawing more water from their sources than their environmental systems could support. They all say that after salt water first intrudes upon fresh water reserves, ti will never stop. The water will always be brackish thereafter. Caution and precaution with our only fresh water reserves above and below ground have to be for the long term, past seven generations and more.
Greg Donald, General Manager
PEI Potato Board
Please find attached commentary from the Prince Edward Island Potato Board on Revised Water Withdrawal Regulations submitted to the Standing Committee on Natural Resources and Environmental Sustainability.
Ron Maynard, President
Robert Godfrey, Executive Director
PEI Federation of Agriculture
Carol and Leonard Lang
While we, the people of PEI, are delighted with the imminent passing of our long-neglected and long-delayed Water Act, we are definitely not impressed with the existing 'loopholes' that leave us with a situation not much better than we had before. We can discern what is happening. The passing of the Water Act makes us feel good, as if something is being accomplished to protect our valuable resource; however, with the exemptions and 'grandfathering' (surely an oxymoron) of existing and not-yet-built holding ponds, we can see that the 'big players' are once again being catered to. Or more explicitly, they appear to be controlling you, our Government. 'All' wells and holding ponds need to be subject to the Water Act's regulations, inclusive of the Legislative Committee's originally suggested two-year compliance period. Differing watersheds need to be considered as well. And we certainly do not need an 'investigative study with three wells' from UPEI and backed by the Irvings for any further research. We, the people of PEI, can see through these games. and encourage you to act on our behalf. ALL our farmers need to be considered in accessing their fair share of our water. Thank you.
Dear Committee Members:
Thank you for taking the time to read my submission on the water act.
In 2001 we had a major drought that had a huge impact on all farms on PEI, not just potatoes. After that drought, several farmers including ourselves submitted requests for permission to dig high capacity wells to be used for supplemental irrigation for 2 months of the year. At that time the Pat Binn’s government decided to put a moratorium on high-capacity wells until they could establish a proper framework be sure that any new wells would not be detrimental to the water supply. This was supposed to be a temporary moratorium and removed once proper regulations were established.
Over the following years the Department of Environment refined the rules on high-capacity wells and continued to grant them to municipalities, car washes, golf courses etc. Basically, anyone who requested one except a farmer. Meanwhile our industry spent these years constantly working on new more drought resistant varieties and other rotational crops that would help offset the impact of the dryer summers being experienced.
In 2014 we realized that these other measures although somewhat effective were not going to be enough to keep our industry viable. We engaged the Department of Environment at that time to determine if there was sufficient water for farmers to use. Every time we asked, they advised that there was enough water and if it were not for the moratorium on high capacity wells for agriculture, they’d use their research to plan it out just like they did for every other person who requested a high capacity well. (This was reiterated by Bruce Raymond and George Summers, 2 senior scientists in the Department of Environment, again just last week.) At that time, we began presenting to the standing committee of the day to ask that the discriminatory moratorium be lifted. There were a few opinionated people that would not consider the science and were of the opinion that we should not have equal access to water. Coincidentally those farmers who spoke at those standing committees were the same farmers who discovered needles in their potatoes that year. We were not only facing the challenges created by the moratorium but now the added cost and reputational risk of being targeted by those opposed to giving farmers access to water for speaking up.
Here we are 7 years later. We have radicals and special interest groups vilifying us, our families, and our industry for installing holding ponds which are fed with low capacity wells. My choice was to leverage my farm to install these holding ponds or sell my farm. I have been left with no other choice. While farmers out west enjoy the support from the federal government to install irrigation infrastructure, I have had to not only pick the most expensive possible way to supplementally irrigate my crop, I’ve had to leverage my farm to do it.
Climate change doesn’t only impact potato farmers. Supplemental irrigation is not only required by potato farmers. Organic growers, vegetable growers etc. will/do require irrigation. Whoever tries to grow a crop on my land will require supplemental irrigation unless the weather patterns change. These farmers are also asking for the moratorium to be lifted and reasonable access to water be granted. For 20 years we have waited, we have lobbied, we have presented, we have dealt with needles in our potatoes, we’ve been vilified, we’ve stood by and watched our crops die early knowing there was sufficient water for farmers to use based on all the data and science available but had no support from government to reverse the moratorium.
Now the opposition party has taken up the duty of vilifying and most recently trying to divide farmers. They first started by arguing that we do not have water as a province, however as many of you know, the Department of Environment continue to tell us and them that we do and have science to support that finding. Their narrative then shifted to personal wells going dry due to high capacity wells however the Department of Environment continue to tell them that it’s not an expected outcome. The next fear mongering tactic was to vilify farmers for building holding ponds which are legal and supported with guidelines from the government, our government. Now they course corrected again and are trying to pit surface drawers against those who are not… Or those who have “deep pockets” vs those who don’t. As farmers, we all want to work together to find viable solutions. We are friends, we are good neighbors and we do not need to be pitted against each other; we need to find ways for us all to be successful and we will continue to be in spite of the official opposition party trying to divide us.
I am sure it is true that many of us have or will struggle to fund the infrastructure required to build holding ponds which is why our government needs to help us find the most cost-effective solution to supplemental irrigation. Had our government had any foresight over the past 20 years, they could have avoided putting our farmers in this position considering they have had the science and data all along. For the first time in 20 years we have a government taking a commonsense approach to this issue and listening to the scientist to make fact-based decisions.
The fact is the mortarium should be lifted and an irrigation strategy should be put in place immediately to ensure family farms remain viable.
Standing Committee on Natural Resources and Environmental Sustainability