Public Consultation Comments on the Irrigation Strategy Discussion Document and the Water Act Regulations
As part of the development of an irrigation strategy for regulations under the Water Act, Islanders were invited to provide comments regarding an Irrigation Strategy Discussion Document. All on-line comments that were received on the Irrigation Strategy Discussion Document before the closing date were posted on this page. The names of people making these on-line submissions will not be disclosed. In addition, prior comments on proposed regulations under the Water Act are shown on this page.
November 23, 2021
Knowingly and repeatedly, government water managers have misled us and demonstrated that they are not adequately science-based. https://www.assembly.pe.ca/sites/www.assembly.pe.ca/files/waterwithdrawa... During the time period when agribusiness was asking to irrigate, soil organic matter content was being allowed to drop, although the organic matter content is what holds water in the soil. https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/fr/information/agriculture-et-terres/s... Now we’re being asked to accept that there’ll be no harm done by irrigation when only 3 out of 13 Island observation wells have been at their historic average (‘normal’) levels over the past five years. http://www.gov.pe.ca/envengfor/groundwater/app.php The Well Construction Regulations make it mandatory for ‘pumping tests’ to be done when wells are constructed. (See: Well Completion, section 12, Completion requirements, pg. 11.) https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/sites/default/files/legislation/w01-
1-4-water_act_well_construction_regulations.pdf But, absurdly, the water pumping (withdrawal) regulations make no mention of pumping water in a way that respects pumping test results. https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/sites/default/files/legislation/w01-1-... Therefore, since pumping tests are being ignored, on what genuinely scientific basis will irrigation water be responsibly and sustainably pumped from any particular well? Given the track record, it is an affront to science, democracy, and to common sense to expect Islanders to believe that irrigation will be responsibly and sustainably managed in a genuinely and adequately science-based way
June 21, 2021
The changes to the regulations are not a reflection of the final submissions for the Water Act and the recommendations from the Environmental Advisory Council. The public engagement has been eliminated and there is no information online with details on the irrigation strategy or drought contingency plan. When do you plan to include the public in a meaningful consultation on these fundamental changes to the Water Act?
June 18, 2021
After the lifting of the moratorium on high-capacity pumping and after investing in new wells and farm-sized irrigation systems, how likely will farmers be to follow a ‘drought contingency plan’ of only irrigating during droughts and not throughout the growing season? Whatever the eventual irrigation picture looks like, how might it be managed in a genuinely science-based and sustainable way? The already mandatory ‘pumping tests’ required for every new well under the proposed draft Well Construction Regulations could provide the partial answer. But, the presently proposed Water Withdrawal (pumping) Regulations absurdly don’t require pumping to respect the results of ‘pumping tests’. If our Departmental water overseers were serious about sustainability and about being science-based, then the ‘withdrawal’ (pumping) regulations would make it mandatory to pump in a way that respected the results of the mandatory ‘pumping test’ performed when that well was constructed. In addition, the impact of high-capacity pumping on potentially affected watersheds must be monitored by a representative number of wells in each watershed that would remotely (electronically) send information to Departmental water overseers (like our currently inadequate number of ‘observation wells’ do). Unfortunately and predictably, if the ‘to be announced’ high capacity well regulations are of the quality we have come to expect from our Departmental water overseers, then we’re all in trouble…. but, we’ll have plumper potatoes for a while. To quickly see relevant extracts of the ‘well construction’ and of the ‘water withdrawal’ regulations, refer to pages 56-58 of a 93 page debunking of Departmental disinformation about our water. Find it at waterwithdrawal-Bourdon-submission.pdf (assembly.pe.ca) or by web-searching ‘Submission #24 Ron Bourdon’.
April 15, 2021
We are concerned that the Water Act primarily deals with water for agricultural purposes and not with actual quality of the water for Islanders. The costs have gone up for water testing considerably in the last few years for bacterial and chemical testing. Many Islanders get their water from their own dug or drilled wells and should have them tested annually for E Coli. The price is now $46 for bacteria and $109 for chemical tests. Arsenic is one of the chemicals found in maritime wells in high concentrations and is a known carcinogen-(bladder, kidney and prostate) The costs of these tests are a barrier for many to ensure they have safe drinking water. If the goal is to ensure that all Islanders have safe drinking water, then these problems need to be addressed and any barriers financial or others should be removed. Recent study https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-halifax-cancer-researcher...
April 12, 2021
How is it that that islanders have to conserve water by the use of water meters, low flush toilets, but if you're a potato farmer you are or going to be able pump water til the cows come home, and if you can get your water ponds and wells in before June, you are going to be grandfathered in. So what happens when peoples wells start going dry, who's paying to put in a new well. I can only guess who will be paying. Is there as many loopholes going to be in this water bill as there was in the land bill.
April 9, 2021
In a recent CBC interview, Federation of Agriculture Executive Director Robert Godfrey said, in effect, that we must set up a water allocation system that will provide for agriculture’s needs. This is fundamentally the wrong starting point. There is only so much water, and there will be less of it in the future. Better and fairer allocation of water is a worthwhile goal, but there will still be only so much water. The right starting point is that agriculture, and all other water users, must adapt their consumption to the amount of water that is available. This should be the foundation of all public and political discussions on water use on PEI.
November 13, 2019
November 12, 2019
I understand this submission is intended to give feedback on the proposed Water Act regulations (which I intend to do) but please allow me to express a few general related comments and concerns as well.
My family and I are farmers. Like many Island farmers our goal is to be a positive presence in the communities where we farm. We are conscious of (sometimes almost overwhelmed by) our responsibility to try to be good stewards of what we’ve be entrusted with.
We are employers to our many dedicated staff, we are a fresh potato supplier to many retailers, and we do our best to farm sustainably. We also, by many accounts, fall under the definition of “corporate farmers”, which to some might imply we are a negative presence and a threat to the environment of this province.
I sincerely appeal to government and the general public to consider that farmers (whether corporate or not) are not necessarily bad people set on destroying the environment to get rich. In some/many cases, farms have to expand to stay competitive in the arenas that we operate in. That doesn’t necessarily mean we have lost our sense of social and environmental responsibility.
I acknowledge there is always room for improvement as we continually try to adapt to changing circumstances around us.
Much good work has and continues to be done in this regard but it is complex and not as straightforward as many may be lead to believe.
The ag industry, water shed folks, government and all Islanders all need to be working together and embracing opportunities to serve our province and our environment well.
It hurts me when farmers are portrayed as being bad people by some who are misinformed and thus misinform many others. Having a passion to protect the environment is an honourable passion , but unfairly directing blame to farmers for unfortunate things that may sometimes be beyond their control is not going to lead to healthy progress for environmental sustainability.
Unfortunately there have been some highly publicized cases between overzealous enforcement officials and farmers trying to defend themselves when extreme rain events resulted in fish kills and such. There have been major improvements and such incidences are now much less frequent even when severe weather is happening more often. If these unfortunate events do happen, the practice of trying to lay blame usually only results in the use of much valuable public and private resources in the court system. In most cases, the environment would be better served by directing efforts and resources to tangible adaptation and mitigation of climate change impacts. It’s my sincere hope that common sense and trust can soon be restored to the point that we can respect and try to understand things from the perspectives of all parties and work together to find a better way forward in these and many other situations.
As to comments on the Water Act -
I believe it is our common responsibility to “use“ but not “abuse“ our natural resources in an effort to sustain a healthy society .
I sincerely believe this is how God (our creator) intended it and (even if we don’t share this spiritual conviction) I believe it’s the correct approach for sustainable, healthy living.
With this principle in mind those who manage our farm have made a decision in recent years that we should make the investment in irrigation infrastructure so that we can supplement our crops’ need for moisture as is required .
We are evaluating this on a relatively small percentage of our crop. We have learned and continue to learn much about our surface and sub-surface water supply.
We’ve made a considerable investment to construct a holding pond and fill that pond with a combination of three low capacity, strategically placed wells and also surface water that’s directed into the pond as the topography in this particular location lends itself well to that.
Based on the best scientific information and guidelines available to us at the time of construction, we in good faith made the investment in what we believe is an a responsible effort to look after our crop well and not cause any risk to ground water supply .
The basics for our decision came from the understanding that the recharge capacity of PEI’s ground water is many, many times greater than the total water used on PEI. (We’ve heard our total water draw by all Islanders, visitors, businesses and industries is somewhere between 2 % and 7% of our recharge capacity and all irrigation (commercial, recreational and agricultural) is responsible for a very small percentage of PEI’s total water usage). If these scientifically generated estimates are anywhere close to accurate, our family and management staff feel confident that extracting a relatively very small amount or water (using low or high capacity wells, with or without making use of a holding pond) to water our crop only as needed for a relatively short period of time during the growing season, will not negatively impact our water supply in our watershed or in our province.
Furthermore it is also our understanding (backed by common sense, knowing how plants grow, and some trial work that I understand has been done) there is much more efficient use of applied nutrients (whether organic or conventional ) by the growing crop if adequate soil moisture can be maintained. This means more uptake by plants and less residual fertilizer left in soil to potentially to leach into ground water or off gas into the atmosphere.
I commend previous governments and this government for wishing to take a cautious approach. I as a farmer, business man and strong supporter of good stewardship agree it’s responsible to take caution before making important decisions (especially decisions that potentially impact others). However legitimate caution should not turn into unsubstantiated fear that prevents moving forward responsibly. I don’t support totally unmonitored water use, but again I believe it’s very appropriate that we move forward cautiously and learn more (both potentially negative and also potentially positive things) about the effect of using a relatively very small amount of our recharge capacity for irrigation.
It seems reasonable to me if there is a comfort level in giving a golf course a permit for a high capacity well (which I do agree is reasonable), it should also be reasonable to endorse proposed test wells (specifically intended to study the effects of water extraction) and it also should be reasonable to endorse continued use of existing irrigation systems. As well, based on the opinion of provincial water experts, it also should be reasonable (if not now, then in the near further) to allow more responsible use of water to provide the moisture needed to grow healthy crops effectively, efficiently, and sustainably.
Thank you to all involved in trying to wisely discern this important issue.
PEI Watershed Alliance’s feedback regarding Water Act Regulations Consultation
November 8, 2019
The PEI Watershed Alliance is the umbrella organization for the 24 community based nonprofit watershed groups on Prince Edward Island. Our groups are active stewards within PEI’s communities and seek communication and cooperation with local stakeholders (e.g., agriculture, aquaculture, forestry, local interest groups) in watershed management activities and environmental betterment.
The Water Act is of great importance to our membership and we have been following and commenting on the process since the beginning. Many of our member groups participated in the recent round of consultations on the proposed Water Withdrawal Regulations through online submission, in-person sessions, and at the public consultation events. With regards to the 4 public consultation events, while many of our watershed group participants were appreciative of the different ways of gathering public input (e.g., dot tallies, small group breakouts, online survey), others expressed the desire for larger group discussion period in these forums. Additionally, concern was expressed with the poor public turnout at some sessions. As watershed groups can engage local stakeholders, the PEI Watershed Alliance is willing to help with the planning of future Water Act public consultation.
With regards to the proposed Water Withdrawal Regulations, we provide the following input:
1) Include a definition of “agricultural irrigation within Section 1 (Interpretation) to provide clarity.
2) Inclusion of water quality in Section 5 (4) as a factor of unacceptable adverse effect. For example, it is known that drilling high capacity wells in many areas of PEI causes increased contamination of deepwater aquifers with nitrates and pesticides.
3) Further clarification around the prioritization mechanism in Section 5 (5c) “based on degree to which the use serves the public interest.” How exactly will this be determined? It is important that sound science is considered in this process rather than just economics and/or politics.
4) Inclusion of a clause within section 6 to immediately limit water in times of scarcity or drought. For example, if environmental flows are not being met in a creek or local domestic wells are going dry, include a mechanism to immediately limit water taking to minimize environmental impacts.
5) Further clarification regarding the permit renewal process (Section 8) and watersheds which are found to be adversely impacted by current water withdrawal rates. How will water taking be reduced in these situations - will there be a decrease in the amount of water drawn by all permits? How will the prioritization be determined? (Please see comment 3 above).
6) Include a clause regarding compensation measures to be implemented when landowners are negatively impacted by water taking processes. For example, domestic wells went dry because of high capacity well demand on the aquifer.
7) Include a public review process within the Groundwater Exploration Permits. Timely information on these permit applications should be made available to watershed groups and interested parties so that they are aware of high capacity withdrawal activity within their local communities.
8) Inclusion of a clause that looks at the intent of water use for low capacity wells. We have concern that these regulations could be circumvented and that a well can be constructed which routinely draws 344 m3 of water daily - essentially acting as a high capacity well. If this was the case, important information on adverse effects would not have been gathered through the groundwater exploration permit process.
Concerns with the proposed regulations:
1) Importance of using sound science and having adequate data when determining whether water withdrawal will cause “unacceptable adverse effect” in our ecosystems. As noted within Canadian River Institute’s Hydrological approaches for Environmental Flow Guidelines in PEI (Chimi-Chiadjeu et al 2019), more stream flow data is needed across the island to adequately calculate environmental flow levels. What standard monitoring approaches will be implemented across the island to collect this information? What is the role of watershed groups in this data collection and what resources will be provided to watershed groups to assist with this data collection? Watershed groups currently undertake monitoring including headwater surveys, flow measurements and water quality surveys, however, a comprehensive monitoring effort to support these regulations would required increased resources ($$) for groups.
2) Recognition that water resources are dependent on complex processes and cycles which can be impacted by many factors such as land-use practices. For example, water within aquifers is the product of recharge systems which involve larger landscape (e.g., forest cover, amount of soil organic matter, etc) and atmospheric hydrological processes.
3) Efforts to discourage water export between watersheds on PEI. Water removed from one watershed should be returned and/or discharged into the same watershed if at all possible.
4) Importance of encouraging water conservation and efficiency for all users (rural, urban, domestic well, low and high capacity wells). Despite what was highlighted in the Q & A regarding the amount of available water on PEI, we feel it is necessary to be mindful of our water use and the associated impacts on our ecosystems.
Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this consultation process and we look forward to continued dialogue on future Water Act regulations.
For the well being of future generations of all living beings on this beautiful little Island, I urge you to please consider a place for the precautionary principle in the Water Act. I welcome you to see the vital import of recognizing the wisdom in the following quote from the Canadian Environmental Law Association as part of your final considerations: "Humans often fail to predict the impact of our actions; where we do attempt prediction, we often miscalculate as to type and quantum. When we try to predict impacts, we often make judgments about the level of assault that human or ecosystem health can bear, and we often explicitly allow levels that approach the limits of that system. This approach leaves no room for error, even though our past experience demonstrates that we make many such errors, often with catastrophic consequences. A precautionary approach would allow room for human error in failing to predict the type, level and geographic extent of consequences, both to humans and to the rest of the ecosystem.”
http://www.cela.ca/sites/cela.ca/files/uploads/419precautionary.pdf I thank you for this opportunity to comment.
Saving our water sources and using water wisely is the highest priority for most of Islanders. Allowing deep wells to irrigate is unwise and foolish waste of water and soil. The runaround of digging trailing ponds and filling them with well water is a poorly disguised attempt to avoid the laws of land and water protection. You know all this and yet the practice continues. Every MLA should drive up and be shown the horror of these ponds. Again, you know all this and yet ask the public to say it again and again.to state the obvious.
In the Guardian today a Standing Committee questions PEI ministers and employees related to effects of climate change. Climate change that will affect our availability of freshwater was not mentioned. As the saltwater around our island rise, they will impact drinkability of our water and for all uses. At that point in the future, it may be necessary to use deep water to sustain the livability on PEI. Technology is and has been available globally to desalinate sea and land saltwater. The province should be promoting/providing desalinated water use for agriculture and for industry and leave the drinkable water for residents this, in my opinion, has not been addressed in government discussions on this issue.
Over many years, government officials have repeatedly assured Islanders that we have plentiful and abundant groundwater. During the Water Act consultations, information boards presented this viewpoint. Now that we are considering the regulations for the Water Act, this same reassuring message if presented in the FAQs on the website, and in "On the Level", a new addition that aims to inform us of facts about water and about the Act. Now the concern that many of us have had about groundwater supply seems to be included in one the the "myths" about PEI water. This message seems to be that there is plenty of water to go around for all of the purposes humans require.
This message seems almost contradictory to the spirit of the Water Act.. Why exercise such care if our water is so abundant?
Perhaps this accounts for why water conservation receives such little attention in the Act or its regulations. Conservation should be a key guiding value for the Water Act. While we are encouraged to conserve water in "On the Level", the same page assures us that we only use a small percentage of available water. It seems paradoxical. Again, why focus on conservation when water is so abundant?.
In two previous presentations on the Water Act, I have argued that the 'abundant water' assumption has been a key reason why public officials never acknowledged that there were problems ("adverse effects" in the language of the Act) in the Winter River Watershed, as a result of unsustainable extraction by the City of Charlottetown. Perhaps this also accounts for why there is no reference to the City of Charlottetown in these regulations. The ongoing practices of our major municipality, and their impact on the Winter River Watershed are widely recognized as a glaring example of the collective failure to protect water and the watershed. .And yet these regulations offer no reference to how their Charlottetown's water withdrawal might be limited and regulated, or criteria to judge sustainable levels of extraction. LIke the Act, the regulations fail to offer the watershed the protection that it requires.
In fact, Section 35 (b) in the Act has the provision that offers the City the possibility of withdrawing all of the water that they want . Should Charlottetown be designated by the Minister as a ‘designated municipal area', he may recommend “an amount that may exceed limits on water withdrawals or water withdrawal approvals that would otherwise apply." Such a provision seems to allow the municipality to withdraw as much water as they want in perpetuity. Like all other water users, Charlottetown needs to comply with the terms of their permits. A Water Act and its regulations should not allow municipalities to live outside the law.
Another key omission is that the regulations, like the Water Act, offer no provisions for meaningful ongoing citizen engagement. We had hoped and suggested that that there would be provisions within the regulations for some forms of community based water governance, where citizens and groups could have meaningful input in decision making. This would be an excellent way of ensuring that we have an open, transparent and ongoing process that builds off the previous public involvement in developing the Act. This is also an excellent opportunity to empower watershed groups that have done so much to protect our waterways, and include them in the process of making decisions about their watershed.
- member of the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water
November 8, 2019
5(4) The Minister must consider all the factors listed, not just “may” consider. Also add requirement for efficiency plans for water use.
5(5) Prioritization of municipal water should be split into Industrial use versus Residential use. Currently any water used in a municipality is prioritized as a higher need than industrial water used in rural areas, but a lot of municipal water use is for industrial purposes.
5(6) Banning high capacity wells for agriculture but allowing them for other industries doesn’t seem fair. It should definitely not be easy to get permission to irrigate from a high capacity well, but if a very well researched case is made, and the farm is otherwise well managed (ex. high organic matter, no erosion issues, not in a high stressed watershed) it should be considered on the merits of the proposal like other industrial uses are considered. It doesn’t seem to be a science-based decision to ban farm irrigation, while allowing other equally water intensive activities.
6(1) Contingency plans are needed for drought. Permit holders should have requirements or plans for how to reduce consumption in a very dry year.
The Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water has some over-arching concerns about the draft Water Act regulations. We have also submitted a clause-by-clause review of the draft regulations, which will be dealt with in another submission.
One of our main concerns is the assumption throughout the provincial print and on-line material that we have plenty of water, using less than 2% of our annual recharge. Everything I have read says that recharge is a very hard thing to figure out. You take the annual precipitation and any other inputs such as some from streams and ponds). Then you have to look at what runs off the land before it can actually recharge the aquifer. You also have to look at transpiration and evaporation, and all the water usage that doesn’t go back to the aquifer and exports (including potatoes and cruise ships). We want to be very careful that we have these numbers absolutely right.
The provincial government is also acting as though we know how climate change will affect water supply, but in reality, we don’t. If we get heavier rain episodes, much of that water runs off and does not soak into the aquifer. We hear that climate change is actually going to increase our recharge. Yet when we look at UNB Hydrogeology Professor Kerry MacQuarrie’s presentation during the Water Act hearings, he said that scientific studies called for anything between a 12% decrease in precipitation to a 7% increase. That is a large variation and one that makes us think that we really don’t have a good enough handle on potential impacts.
When talking about irrigation and the water regulations, we seem to be worrying too much about water and not enough about soil organic matter. It does no one any good to treat these as unrelated issues. As the recent Agriculture Canada research into PEI potato fields has clearly shown, our levels of organic matter continue to drop in far too many fields. That leads to soils which store less moisture.
We also need to include the issues of nitrates and other contaminants. Even if it turns out that we have lots of water, is it good quality water, and will more irrigation lead to increases in nitrates or pesticides, and anoxic conditions? The Act itself says “that access to and use of water be sustainable and not harm water quality, water security or the ecosystems that support water quality and water security”. Again, this is a huge problem. A recent report entitled A Renewed Conservation Strategy for Atlantic Salmon in PEI says that “While recognizing the importance of agriculture to the PEI economy, there is an urgent need to address the impacts arising from intensive row crop production if viable salmon populations are to be restored to even a fraction of their former range on PEI. This issue has received considerable attention over the years, however sedimentation, fish kills and anoxic events continue to impact our rivers and estuaries. Field consolidation, hedgerow removal, shortened crop rotations and fall tillage, compounded by the vagaries of climate change, are just some of the practices at issue. There is no one piece of legislation, organization or individual that can solve the problem. A multi-pronged approach is needed that includes industry, government, researchers, and environmental groups to find solutions so that productive agricultural operations can co-exist with healthy functioning aquatic ecosystems.”
All the regulations meet both the spirit and the letter of the legislation. We have already seen too many examples of people circumventing legislation (the Lands Protection Act, for example.) Some people are already circumventing the spirit of the Water Act with the holding ponds. Under the regulations, a high-capacity well is capable of pumping 345 cubic metres of water a day. What is to stop people from pumping 340 cubic metres per day and irrigating their potatoes, thus once again circumventing the moratorium on high-capacity wells? And the distinction between low-capacity wells and high-capacity wells is artificial. “Low” is anything above 25 cubic metres per day, while “high” is 345 cubic metres per day and up. There needs to be new categories so that 340 cubic metres is not seen as “low”.
The regulations seem to have slipped away from the precautionary principle (that in the face of scientific uncertainty, action should be taken to prevent potentially serious risk without waiting for further research) and intergenerational equity (the idea of fairness between generations). These two key issues were repeatedly raised at the public meetings, and we need to make sure that these concerns are reflected in the regulations.
Gary Schneider, Co-chair
Environmental Coalition of PEI,
member group of the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water
Note: submitted letter was converted to text for display purposes
HILLSBOROUGH RIVER ASSOCIATION
c/o P.O. Box 265
Charlottetown, PE C1A 7K4
November 7, 2019
Honourable Brad Trivers
Minister, Environment, Land and Climate Change
P.O. Box 2000
Charlottetown, PE C1A 7N8
Dear Minister Trivers:
RE: Water Withdrawal Regulations
We appreciate the opportunity to provide comments on the consultation draft Water Withdrawal Regulations and your announcement that permits will not be issued for the construction of high capacity wells for agricultural irrigation. We are concerned that this moratorium Clause 2(5) is a regulation that can be changed at an Executive Council meeting rather than being ensconced in the Water Act itself. In that light, the regulation should include a clause that guarantees that, before changes in this clause are made, public consultations will be held on the proposed change(s).
From the perspective of clarity, science-based approach should include not only physical and biological sciences but also social sciences (e.g. behavioural change). In respect to water extraction thresholds, it is essential that precautionary principles be invoked in establishing water extraction and ensuring biodiversity is maintained or improved. Thus, the use of models must recognize that a model does not reflect the complexity of natural systems.
In respect to clause 36(b) of the Water Act, a regulation should be developed that ensures that the Minister shall take extraordinary measures to ensure that water extraction does not exceed the calculated flow rates available in the watershed.
There is a need to address both biodiversity and species at risk as well as the addition of a definition for species at risk to at least include those native species listed as S1 and S2 and possibly the lower part of S3 populations status codes (see Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre). The latter is required because the Government has failed to list the species at risk on PEI.
In respect to renewal, the regulations should make it clear that renewals may decrease the amount of water extraction allowed based on the cumulative withdrawal of water in the watershed, the priorities defined in the regulations, and new science evidence.
Regulations should be developed to make water conservation plans part of the application process for both ground water and surface water withdrawal for all water extraction permit applications exceeding 25 cubic meters per day.
The concept of the impact of the impact of water extraction on non-consumptive use as well as fair allocation of water resources to the landowners in the watershed should be addressed.
These regulations should also address water recharge needs and address the loss of forest cover that increases water recharge within the watershed.
In addition to the comments above, our other concerns are as follows:
Clause 2(1) - for clarity, use of the wording “No person shall without a valid groundwater exploration permit” is clearer that a clause using “if the person holds a groundwater exploration permit”. In addition, the wording should address the difference between testing and pumping water for use;
Clause 2(3)(b), 5(3)(b), 8(3)(b), & 9(3)(b) - The policies and objectives should be spelled out in regulation so that they are clear to the enforcement staff, public and applicants and be enforceable;
Clause 2(3)(c) - Clarify the meaning of watershed - it could be a river system or one of the Island’s many sub-watersheds (e.g. if the well is located in Dromore is the watershed reference to Pisquid River or Hillsborough River). An assessment of the impact of the placement of the well in relation to the proximity of the watershed boundary and recharge should be required;;
Clause 2(6) - The definition of “water supply system” only includes five or more households or a public building or place of assembly. It does not cover an industrial application, agricultural uses e.g. water supply for farm animals, and certain other uses. This should be expanded;
Clause 4(2) - For public clarity and enforcement purposes, “single water supply” and water storage structure” must be defined;
Clause 4(2)(b) - The rationale for a 15 m radius seems arbitrary. The science behind this distance should be clarified;
Clause 4(5) - For public clarity and enforcement purposes, “remediate contaminated water” must be defined. As well, a water withdrawal cap on this purpose is required as well as clarity on the Ministerial conditions respecting the disposal of the contaminated water;
Clause 4(6) - The current wording does not address the withdrawal rate in relation to water flow in the watercourse and this needs to be addressed.
Clause 5(1) - The nature of the written permission should be stated. Should not a prescribed form be used and the owner’s approval be witnessed.
Clause 5(2) - A signed affidavit from the applicant attesting to the accuracy of the results, data and information as well as a statement making failure to provide truthful information a violation of the regulations;
Clause 5(4) - “may” should be changed to “shall”;
Clause 5(4)(a)(ii) - Either address the biodiversity of aquatic ecosystems or, at the very least, after “fish” add “and other native aquatic animal and aquatic plant” before “populations”;
Clause 5(4)(a)(v) - The context of flow in relation to “wetland” needs to be clarified. Many wetlands do not have flow;
Clause 5(5) - The Minister must also curtail the withdrawal of water so that there is sufficient water in the watershed. Separate household wells from municipal water supply systems to make municipal water supply systems the third priority. Certain municipalities have failed to address the ecosystem impacts of continuous expansion of water demand. The Minister must be compelled to make water conservation measure orders or to suspend water withdrawal in times of shortage;
Clause 6 - The conditions of these permits should be a matter of public record and be available online so that the public is aware of the conditions being imposed. Failure to comply must lead to the suspension or revoking water extraction permits;
Clause 6(2) - Clarify that the rate can be less than that permitted but not exceed the permitted rate;
Clause 6(4) - Add (c) the permit holder violates the terms and conditions of the permit;
Clause 7 - Reword - the onus should be automatic transfer of water withdrawal tests, data and information to the Minister and its posting on the government’s website. As well, a certificate of calibration should be required on a specified basis.
Clause 8(1) - It is the onus of the permit holder to be compliant. There should be no grace period on expiry. The wording should note that an expired permit makes it null and void.
Clause 9(1) - Add a proviso that the permit must remain within the same class of extraction;
Section 9(2) - Any increase in the extraction rate must require proper testing, data collection and information as well as a rationale on why an increase is required and why a water conservation plan will not meet the needs. In this clause, “may” must be changed to “shall”;
Clause 10(1) - The wording is ambiguous. Why would the reference point be “adjacent to the watercourse” rather than the property owner. In respect to the death of the permit holder, is the permit terminated? What happens when the holder dies intestate?
Clause 12 - Why is the Minister not compelled to address the shortfall. “May” should be changed to “shall”. If the permit holder is non-compliant with the conditions of the permit, the permit should be suspended or revoked.
A clause should be added to address watercourses running dry and severe drought conditions which reduce water extraction potential. In these cases, the Minister must be compelled to suspends water withdrawal until conditions ameliorate.
As a rural Islander I am very concerned that our government department responsible for the protection of our water is sending a mixed message: "We need to protect our water resource but, hey, don't worry, there is lots of it"! How does this promote the need for urgent action before it is TOO LATE?
I am also concerned that there doesn't seem to be teeth in the regulating of "circumvention" and "good quality water" in new and existing rules.
How exactly will use and the other aspects of water regulating be monitored?
Why isn't there a process for ONGOING public input? We, the general public,have in various ways told government officials we want much more input and oversight in what governments do. Perhaps officials haven't noticed that recent elections on PEI and across the country indicate there has been a growing lack of trust in what officials tell us.
Is the PEI Water Act and its regulations going to be a missed opportunity to help dispel this mistrust?
THE COALITION FOR THE PROTECTION OF PEI WATERS
The draft Water Regulation clause by clause analysis.
In addition to a document discussing our overarching concerns, the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Waters has engaged in a clause by clause analysis of the draft Water Regulations. After a constructive meeting with the Department, we understand that there are some amendments to the draft regulations in preparation, however we feel it important to include our initial concerns as part of the public record.
WATER WITHDRAWAL REGULATIONS
1. (d) “high capacity well” means a well that is or is designed to be pumped at a rate of 345 cubic metres per day or more;
(e) “low capacity well” means a well that is or is designed to be pumped at a rate greater than 25 cubic metres per day but less than 345 cubic metres per day;
This section in conjunction with section 1(d) raises several issues and questions:
-the thresholds are problematic. Why is 345 the chosen number? On what basis was it chosen?
-how would this hard number address a number of wells, each pumping 340 cubic metres a day (which remain in accordance with 4(2))?
-decisions of “low” and “high” should consider the use to which the water would be directed particularly if the proposed use is agricultural and especially in light of the moratorium
-the terms “low” and “high” capacity are somewhat misleading. 25 cubic metres-345 cubic metres is not an insignificant amount of water. To label them “low capacity” is inaccurate and may arguably lead to false assurances regarding the actual amount of water being drawn. Low capacity wells are those under 25 cubic metres. “Low” as it is presently defined should be renamed.
Groundwater Exploration Permit
2. (1) For the purpose of section 48 of the Act, a person may undertake the drilling, construction or reconstruction of a high capacity well or a well that supplies or is designed to supply water to a water supply system, if the person holds a groundwater exploration permit.
For absolute clarity, this section should perhaps specifically state that the exploration permit does not permit the pumping of water.
(3) On receipt of an application in the form required by the Minister and any fee required in the Schedule to these regulations, the Minister may issue a groundwater exploration permit to the applicant if the Minister is satisfied that the drilling, construction or reconstruction of the well
(a) will not have an unacceptable adverse effect; and
(b) is consistent with the policies and objectives of the Minister with respect to managing water resources in the watershed in which the well is or is to be located.
The Act specifically states in section 7(2) that departmental and government objectives are to be considered within the legislation. See also section 2(i) for further context for decision-making. We posit therefore that the policies and objectives of the Minister with respect to the watershed should therefore not be the only consideration.
More importantly, the objectives and goals set out in the Act should provide the context for decision-making of the minister in the permitting process (and throughout the Act). The inclusion of section 2 in the legislation was crucial to the endorsement of the legislation by many stakeholders. This section provides the overarching framework to govern the spirit and direction of the Act and its implementation. Reference to the applicable subsections should be included in the regulations where appropriate.
(4) In determining whether the drilling, construction or reconstruction of the well will have an unacceptable adverse effect, the Minister may consider factors including, in respect of the watershed in which the well is or is proposed to be located,
(a) the availability of water in the watershed;
(b) the proximity of the well to other wells, watercourses and wetlands in the watershed; and
(c) the potential impact of the well on the watershed and on other wells, watercourses and wetlands in the watershed.
Should the section not state, the Minister “shall” consider factors....including “but not limited to”...?
We believe, the consideration of these factors should be mandatory and not permissive. The word “may” should be replaced by the word “shall”.
This decision is fundamental to the success and functioning of the legislation and the Minister should be required to address each of the named critieria.
Arguably, additional factors should be included to allow an informed and fulsome consideration prior to decision-making. These include specific reference to the precautionary principle in determining whether or not a permit should be issued AND consideration of interests mentioned in section2(a) and 2(i) of the legislation such as conservation, and accommodation of supporting ecosystems.
(5) Notwithstanding subsection (3), a groundwater exploration permit shall not be issued for the drilling, construction or reconstruction of a high capacity well for the purpose of agricultural irrigation, except in respect of the reconstruction of a high capacity well from which the withdrawal of water for the purpose of agricultural irrigation was authorized under the Environmental Protection Act R.S.P.E.I. 1988, Cap. E-9, immediately before the coming into force of the Act.
Should the section include (the soon to be renamed) “low capacity” wells? ie “...shall not be issued for the drilling, construction or reconstruction of a “low capacity” or high capacity “. Or simply change it to “any well with a capacity greater than 25 cubic metres per day”.
We are actually wondering why this section is here in light of s. 2(1)? Is it not redundant?
(6) A groundwater exploration permit authorizes the permit holder to drill, construct or reconstruct a high capacity well or a well that supplies or is designed to supply water to a water supply system to explore its viability and the possible effects of the withdrawal of water from the well on water resources and related aspects of human or animal health or on an aquatic ecosystem.
Should there be a change from “a high capacity well or a well that supplies or is designed to supply water to a water supply system” to any well greater than 25 cubic metres per day” or “other than a domestic well”?
(10) The holder of a groundwater exploration permit shall ensure that a copy of all data, reports and other information obtained pursuant to an activity conducted under the permit are submitted to the Minister within 30 days of the completion of the activity.
Should not all of this application information and departmental response be posted on the Registry and available to the public in a timely fashion? Again, the objectives and goals specifically mandate access to information, public participation and transparency in s. 2 of the Act. The requirement to make the information public should be added to this subsection.
4 (2) For the purpose of subsection (1), where a person withdraws water from more than one well, watercourse location or wetland location, or from a combination of these and
(a) the water is directed to a single water supply or water storage structure;
(b) in the case of multiple wells, the wells are within a radius of 15 metres of each other; or
(c) the effect of the water withdrawal on groundwater is similar to
that which would occur as a result of withdrawal from a single well, the total water withdrawn by the person from all of these sources shall be included in calculating the rate of withdrawal per day from each source.
A subsection should be added to specifically address holding ponds.
Subsection 4(2)(c) might not be not sufficiently strong enough to avoid efforts to circumvent the Act.
(6) A person shall not withdraw water from a watercourse at a rate that exceeds 25 cubic metres per day for a purpose described in subsection (5) without a permit where the minimum width of the water in the watercourse at the time and location of the withdrawal is less than one metre.
Where did 1 metre come from? Where is it measured? Why is flow and volume not a consideration? Does it not seem odd to allow a swimming pool to be filled if the stream source is only one metre wide?
5. (2) The Minister may require an applicant to conduct tests, collect data or obtain information and submit the results, data or information to the Minister in support of an application for a water withdrawal permit.
Should this subsection be mandatory – “shall” require, not “may” require. Should the “or” not be “and/or” in both uses?
(3) On receipt of an application in the form required by the Minister, any test results, data or information required under subsection (2) and any fee required under the Schedule to these regulations, the Minister may issue a water withdrawal permit to the applicant if the Minister is satisfied that the withdrawal of water from the well, watercourse or wetland for the purpose of supplying a water supply system or at a rate that exceeds 25 cubic metres per day, as the case may be,
(a) will not have an unacceptable adverse effect; and
(b) is consistent with the policies and objectives of the Minister with respect to managing water resources in the watershed in which the well, watercourse or wetland is located.
5(3)(b) should state that the permit is contingent on the application being consistent with the “policies and objectives of the Act” not just the “Minister”.
(4) In determining whether the withdrawal of water will have an unacceptable adverse effect, the Minister may consider factors including
This consideration should be mandatory. ie The Minister “shall” consider factors including, “but not limited to” . . .
(a) in respect of the watershed in which the well, watercourse or wetland is located,
(i) the cumulative effect on the watershed of the withdrawal of water from all sources within the watershed,
(ii) the potential effect of the withdrawal of the water on fish populations in the watershed,
Could we possibly change “fish populations” to “wildlife populations” which allows a more fulsome consideration of the aquatic ecosystem and everything that depends upon it, as mandated in the definition section 1(d) the legislation?
(iv) the potential effect of the withdrawal of the water on other users of water in the watershed, and
(v) the potential effect of the withdrawal of the water on water flow in any watercourse or wetland within the watershed;
Why not include consideration of non-consumptive uses in these watersheds throughout these subsections to ensure all users are within the decision-making purview?
(5) Where there is insufficient water in a watershed to permit the withdrawal of water for all purposes and meet the environmental flow needs of the aquatic environment in the watershed, the Minister shall prioritize the purposes for which water may be withdrawn from the watershed in descending order as follows:
(a) fire suppression;
(b) domestic water use by individual household wells or through municipal water supply systems;
(c) industrial, commercial or other water uses prioritized based on the degree to which the use serves the public interest.
Section 5 (5)(c) is highly problematic in that it allows a very broad category of activities (activities that may not be in the public interest) to trump flow in times of shortage . . . a period when flow considerations should be given high priority (subject to 5(a) and 5(b)). Section 5 (5)(c) should be removed.
Consideration should be given to including a section that outlines how priority will be addressed in time of shortage more generally: if shortages are predicted how do we manage use? Do we mandate conservation? Is water allocated beyond domestic use to first in time, first in right? Do we cut back usage across all permit holders on a percentage basis? These questions should be answered prior to specific issues arising and incorporated into the regulations as well as the terms and conditions of (publically accessible) permits. (See also section 6(1))
(6) Notwithstanding subsection (3), a water withdrawal permit shall not be issued for the withdrawal of water from a high capacity well for the purpose of agricultural irrigation, except in respect of a high capacity well from which the withdrawal of water for the purpose of agricultural irrigation was authorized under the Environmental Protection Act immediately before the coming into force of the Act.
Arguably, this section should apply to any agricultural irrigation well.
6. (1) A water withdrawal permit shall state in respect of the withdrawal of water under the permit
(a) the maximum rate at which the water may be withdrawn;
(b) the maximum amount of water that may be withdrawn within a specified period; and
(c) the purpose for which the water may be withdrawn.
The permit should also include monitoring and reporting requirements re (a) and (b). See also section 5(5)
(2) No holder of a water withdrawal permit shall withdraw water from the well, watercourse or wetland covered by the permit at a rate, in an amount or for a purpose not authorized by the permit.
“Nor in any other manner contrary to the terms and conditions of the permit” (a permit which should include monitoring and reporting within a set number of days of gathering the information).
See suggestions under section 5 (5) discussion.
(4) A water withdrawal permit ceases to be valid when, in respect of the land adjacent to the watercourse or on which the well or wetland is located from which water is being withdrawn under the permit,
(a) there is a change in ownership of the land; or
(b) where the holder of the permit is not the owner of the land, the owner of the land rescinds his or her permission, in writing, for the holder of the permit to withdraw water from the well, watercourse or wetland.
Permits should also cease to be valid if the permit holder violates the terms and conditions of the permit. It should also cease to be valid if the water is wasted. (see Australian legislation)
7. The holder of a water withdrawal permit shall provide data collected from any flow measuring device or water level measuring device, or data respecting the calibration of these devices, to the Minister, on request.
We suggest that you delete “on request”. Providing data should be a condition of the permit and the (timely submitted) information should be posted on the Registry within a stated number of days.
8. (1) The holder of a water withdrawal permit may apply to the Minister, within the 60 days preceding or following the expiry of the permit, to renew the permit.
(2) The Minister may require an applicant to conduct tests, collect data or obtain information and submit the results, data or information to the Minister in support of an application to renew a water withdrawal permit.
(3) On receipt of an application in the form required by the Minister, any test results, data or information required under subsection (2) and any fee required under the Schedule to these regulations, the Minister may renew a water withdrawal permit if the Minister is satisfied that the continued withdrawal of water from the well, watercourse or wetland, as the case may be, up to the same maximum rate and amount and for the same purpose
(a) will not have an unacceptable adverse effect; and
(b) is consistent with the policies and objectives of the Minister with respect to managingwater resources in the watershed in which the well, watercourse or wetland is located, and subsections 5(4) and (5) apply, with any necessary changes.
Please see comments in Sections 2 and 5 above to consistently include placing this information on the Registry, mandatory requirements re the Minister in receipt of a request, extension of the factors to include the objectives of the Act etc.
9. (1) The holder of a water withdrawal permit may apply to the Minister to amend the permit with respect to the maximum rate at which water may be withdrawn, the maximum amount of water that may be withdrawn within a specified period or the purpose for which the water may be withdrawn under the permit.
(2) The Minister may require an applicant to conduct tests, collect data or obtain information and submit the results, data or information to the Minister in support of an application to amend a water withdrawal permit.
Again, we would change “may” to “shall”.
This section, when combined with section 36(b) of the Act creates something of a slippery slope. At a minimum, in keeping with Section 2 of the Act (and pretty much every subsection therein), no increase in the amount or rate should be granted in the absence of a fully documented and publically available conservation plan submitted by the applicant.
(3) On receipt of an application in the form required by the Minister, any test results, data or information required under subsection (2) and any fee required under the Schedule to these regulations, the Minister may amend a water withdrawal permit if the Minister is satisfied that the withdrawal of water from the well, watercourse or wetland at the requested maximum rate, in the requested maximum amount or for the requested purpose (a) will not have an unacceptable adverse effect; and
(b) is consistent with the policies and objectives of the Minister with respect to managing water resources in the watershed in which the well, watercourse or wetland is located,
See comments under section 2(3) and subsections 5(4) and (5) apply with any necessary changes.
10. (1) The holder of a water withdrawal permit may apply to the Minister to transfer the permit to the owner of the land adjacent to the watercourse or on which the well or wetland is located from which water may be withdrawn under the permit, or to a person with the written permission of the owner of the land.
(2) On receipt of an application from the holder of the water withdrawal permit, in the form required by the Minister, and any fee required under the Schedule to these regulations, the Minister may transfer the water withdrawal permit if the transferee undertakes, in writing, to accept the transfer and abide by the terms and conditions of the permit.
(3) For greater certainty, on transfer, the terms and conditions of a permit, including the expiry date, remain as they were immediately before the transfer unless altered by the Minister.
Should there be a provision banning the buying and selling of water permits? This would reflect the Government commitment to the “common good” and the public guardianship role they have assumed.
GENERAL QUESTION. As is the case with land holdings, did the province consider a limit on the maximum permitted quantity of water that might be held by a person? This might address one of the concerns of many Islanders regarding concentration of resource use in a few hands. Like the comment immediately above this would also ensure that water is not commoditised and that the common good is paramount.
12. Where water is being withdrawn from a well, watercourse or wetland pursuant to an authorization continued under subsection 77(5) of the Act and, in the opinion of the Minister, the withdrawal contravenes or does not comply with the Act, these regulations or the policies and objectives of the Minister with respect to managing water resources, the Minister may require the holder of the authorization to submit a plan indicating how the holder will bring the water withdrawal into compliance on the expiry of the authorization or five years after the date subsection 77(5) of the Act came into force, whichever occurs first.
. . . the Minister “shall” require the holder, not “may”. Then require it immediately when the Act comes into force
Also, is it clear that the authorization holder shall submit this plan so that they DO comply within the stated time periods, or just that they submit a plan to do so within the time period?
First off, I would like to commend the incredible diligence of the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water for their recommendations, all of which I am in full agreement with. Other concerns include:
- the number of "holding ponds" that have been dug while a moratorium is in effect. To me this is just one more way(as in the Lands Protection Act) that the government allows farmers and others to circumvent regulations that do not work exactly the way they want them to. It is unsustainable and, in my opinion, unethical.
- the state of our well water in rural areas. Nitrate "hot spots" in wells across the island are a cause of concern by many rural islanders, as are pesticides in wells. While our deptartment of health tells us all levels are within or below acceptable levels, there is no consideration given to the effect this chemical cocktail may have on our health, especially on our most vulnerable citizens. I also have grave concerns about the cummulative effect of consuming these nitrates and pesticides will have on our health over time, and I have not seen any mention of this by dept of health either.
- I am worried about the amount of water being drawn from cruise ships and that it does seem to be hidden from the public.
- the amount of water we are allowing farmers and golf courses to use in irrigation, and also in farming production. Are we reusing wastewater every chance we get? It seems we are not and these regulations should make it mandatory when it is at all possible.
- Ironically, these regulations seem almost non-committal to protection of our water. Although thorough in areas covered, the wording leaves much to be desired. We must be firm about our committment to conserve and protect. As the Coalition has pointed out in many instances, the word 'may' must be replaced with 'shall', leaving no room for questionable decision making. I also question decisions being left to any Minister's discretion, as we have found out the hard way that this is a slippery slope.
- Finally, although government frequently mentions their use of the 'the Precautionary Principle", I see a multitude of examples,especially in regard to our water and land, where this has not been the case. Please have your ministers educated as to what it means and why they should be considering it in every single decision that is made. Thanks for the opportunity.
The public consultation process during the development of the Water Act was thorough and meaningful. People had multiple options for participating and were able to see how their contributions were or were not used. Many of us use that process as an excellent example of public engagement by government and the Water Act was made better, and stronger because of the process and the contributions of individuals and community organizations.
Of particular importance to many of those who participated in and followed the progress of the Act is Section 2, the Purpose and Goals and the inclusion of principles, such as the precautionary principle, the importance of protecting water for future generations and water as a common good.
It is therefore disappointing that a) the public process for consultation on the withdrawal regulations has been somewhat limited, and b) information shared on the Water Act website, information which presumably informs the regulations, seems to contradict some of the principles so clearly stated in Section 2 of the Act.
a) Public Consultation Process
We appreciate the effort to get input from a greater number of people by creating space for participants to talk to one another. However, the questions that were posed were accompanied by information that seemed to direct people to answer in a certain way. For example, on the issue of high-capacity wells, we were asked if we agree, or not, with disallowing high capacity wells for agriculture. The question was preceded with the information that “in Prince Edward Island we use only a very small amount of the water available to us”.
We would like to see details regarding how the information that has been received (online and during the public consultations) will be used, if at all, in the final drafting of the regulations.
b) Information Provided to the Public – “On the Level” & “Frequently Asked Questions”
While some of the information provided on the Water Act website is informative, much of it seems designed to lead us to believe that we have an abundance of water in this province, so there’s no need to worry. There is no reference to conservation nor to the principle of intergenerational equity (ensuring enough water for future generations). The precautionary principle is nowhere to be seen.
Against a backdrop of a climate emergency, people are worried. Presenting their concerns as myths to be dispelled is not helpful. If there is research, evidence or factual information related to how much water PEI has/uses, the website might have been better used to share or provide links to those resources.
The way the information is presented is almost as an argument against the need to conserve water. And yet conservation was clearly important to people participating in the Water Act consultations and is a theme running through the Goals and Purpose in Section 2 of the Act.
About the Regulations
We understand these regulations are specifically about setting rules for water withdrawal. But missing from the Act itself and therefore from the withdrawal regulations is any consideration of water quality. When irrigation for agriculture is discussed, there is no mention of soil organic content, or of agricultural practices that have a negative impact on water quality. We would like to see some acknowledgement that water quality and quantity are related, and we would like to see some connection between the Water Act and legislation relating to agricultural practices – the Crops Rotation Act, for example. And standards for soil organic matter, and Nitrates and pesticides.
In the section dealing with transfer of withdrawal permits, we would like to see something specific about how many permits one person or corporation can legally hold. It may be true that the Act defines water as a common good, and that no one can “own” water. However, holding a permit bestows on a person a certain amount of power & control, and holding more than one, or more than several, would give someone even more control over water. We would like to see this issue dealt with explicitly in the regulations.
We support the recommendations made by the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water:
- In several places the word may should be replaced by shall (refer to sections)
- Decisions made by the Minister should always be in line with the principles stated in the Goals and Purpose Section, 2.
- We would like to see a more fitting name for “low capacity wells” a category which in the draft regulations would include wells from 250-340 l/d. Besides this, the category is very wide. There is such a big difference between 25 and 345 litres per day.
Exercising the precautionary principle and respecting the principle of conservation (as per Section 2 of the Act, Purpose and Goals) would mean that existing holding ponds, if they are exceeding withdrawal limits specified in the Act, will be considered in contravention of the Act – there would be no “grandfathering”. It would also mean:
• high-capacity wells for agriculture would be permanently disallowed,
• practices that support building soil organic matter would be encouraged, and
• any wells that approach the 345 l/day threshold would be closely monitored.
Island organizations, including Cooper Institute and the National Farmers’ Union and the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Land have expressed grave concern about how some decisions related to the Lands Protection Act have contradicted the spirit and purpose of the Act. We do not want to see the same thing happen with the Water Act. The regulations must be constructed and enforced in ways that promote conservation. And they must reflect the precautionary principle.
Water Act Regulations
Comment of Nature PEI Nov 8 2019
Submitted by Rosemary Curley
The proposed water withdrawal regulations contain many positive elements that respond to comments made during the Water Act consultations in 2016. We have some specific comments outlined below.
1. Science-based approach.
We support the inclusion of a science-based approach in the proposed water withdrawal regulations, with the following caveats.
There is no reference to the precautionary principle. The current level of scientific uncertainty due to incomplete knowledge of complex, natural systems, use of simplified models, and evolving factors such as climate change, necessitate an overarching precautionary approach to protecting our water resources. It is expected that as science advances, this uncertainty will be reduced.
Further investment in science is needed to support a science-based approach to the management of water resources. For example, work is still underway on assessing ecological instream flow needs on Prince Edward Island, and the results of this work may not be immediately transferable to other systems. An external Science Advisory Committee or equivalent is one means to identify gaps in knowledge and prioritize research and development needs
2. Unacceptable Adverse Effects
In the plain language summary “unacceptable adverse effects” are variously described as effects on fish health; protecting stream flows for aquatic life; the cumulative effect of water withdrawal from all sources within the watershed; effect on the water flow on watercourses; impact on the watershed, on other wells, watercourses and wetlands in the watershed; limiting withdrawals to sustainable amounts. While it is good to see broad-based environmental protection in the regulations, core environmental values such as biodiversity, and species at risk (concerns previously expressed by Nature PEI) are missing, and the stated protection endpoints are vague and open to interpretation, (e.g. what is an “unacceptable” effect?). Effects will also be unique to the socioeconomic and biophysical characteristics of a region. Consultation (such as for the proposed Water Management Areas) should be expedited to assess and consolidate information and priorities for geographically defined regions. This is particularly important in assessing cumulative effects from multiple withdrawals.
3. Five year renewal period
The five year renewal requirement for permits is a positive step forward that enables new science, changing uses, and unforeseen factors such as climate change to be incorporated into decisions. The government should aim to have Water Management Areas defined, and priorities established within this five year time frame to inform the renewal process.
4. High Capacity Wells
We are pleased to see that the intent of the existing moratorium on new high capacity agricultural wells and surface water extraction for irrigation is retained under the regulations, and that any changes will be driven by research-based science.
It also good to see that the issue of several low capacity wells feeding into a holding pond or other system has been addressed, in that several low capacity wells can be deemed as equivalent to a single high capacity if they meet certain conditions. We have some difficulty with some of the conditions being too narrowly defined (e.g. 15 m radius, water is directed to a single water supply network or water storage), and easily circumvented. We assume that the final condition - effect of the withdrawals is similar to that if it were to occur from a single well – would cover exceptions.
As recommended by NPEI in 2016, all high capacity wells should be monitored and reported to regulators, and made available to the public. This should not be limited to high capacity wells for agricultural uses. Commercial, industrial, and domestic uses are equally or more important.
5. Low Capacity Wells
It is good to see the addition of a new category of Low Capacity Wells that are subject to what we understand to be more of a “desktop” assessment. This category would cover a broad range of water withdrawal uses across PEI and the combined/cumulative impact of low capacity wells should be assessed and inform the desktop assessment, potentially as part of Water Management Area plans.
6. Priority uses
There is a direct focus on agricultural uses, but some of the other major users, especially domestic water use, are understated in the regulations. The proposed regulations state that where there is not enough water in a watershed to meet human needs and still support the aquatic environment, the allocation of water available for human use is to be prioritized in the following descending order of importance: (a) fire suppression; (b) domestic water use by household wells or through municipal water supply systems; (c) industrial, commercial or other water uses prioritized by how much the use serves the public interest. While water is considered a fundamental “right”, it is important to quantify “acceptable” domestic uses, and to implement water conservation measures that ensure sustainable use of the resource.
Morell River Management Coop
2720 Mount Stewart Rd Peakes, PE
November 8, 2019
Honourable Brad Trivers
Minister, Environment, Land and Climate Change
P.O. Box 2000
Charlottetown, PE C1A 7N8
Dear Minister Trivers:
RE: Water Withdrawal Regulations
Thank you for the availability to make comment on surface water use within the province. Our group has worked over many years to enhance the surface water, and stream ecosystems around St. Peters Bay. The local and direct involvement of residents, and students, working on and using these rivers, ties generations of people together around a water resource.
Particular to the area where our group completes stream enhancement, and the proposed withdrawal regulations, our group would like to share the following comments:
Is there room to clarify the proposed intent of section 5. (1) "The owner of land adjacent to a watercourse or on which a well or wetland is located, or a person with the written permission of the owner, may apply to the Minister for a water withdrawal permit to withdraw water from the well, watercourse or wetland." with the existing regulations of the Planning Act Subdivision and Development Regulations section 67 subsection 1 - 8?
For landowners who have cooperatively worked to maintain the recreational value of the Morell River with the the existing planning regulations, our comment would be that those landowners would benefit from more consistency when they are already working with a regulation " 5) No owner of property located within the Conservation Zone shall permit development to be undertaken on that property...". It has naturally taken years to allow the river to develop into its existing state which we see as a highlight in the province. Our group sees a positive outcome from the previous years of cooperative acceptance of a non-development, and public use of a public resource. Does the proposed regulation, or the existing Planning Act have precedence regarding surface water withdrawal in the Morell River Conservation Zone?
Secondly, the the proposed withdrawal regulations set flat fees for water use. If damage to an ecosystem does occur, a comment we would make is that; a per unit water cost, that can be directed back to the local area where lack of water has caused damage, could have more ability to provide remediation than a flat fee, if it is needed.
President Morell River Management Coop
Despite the common perception of its abundance, groundwater is not inexhaustible; it’s like drawing money from the bank without replenishing it. Extracting groundwater causes drawdown. This can have an adverse impact on delicate ecosystems and biodiversity. For instance, groundwater feeds vegetation and replenishes intermittent streams that communities of fish and aquatic invertebrates depend on. Wet streambeds are also important sites of microorganism activity, carbon and nutrient recycling. ( https://www.forbes.com/sites/natalieparletta/2019/07/17/the-importance-of-groundwater-and-of-predicting-human-impacts-on-it ) Not for nothing is the expression "water is life" used more frequently around the world as cities are running out of this precious resource. The warming of the planet which has caused the climate to change is negatively affecting the supply and quality of water everywhere.With drought and sudden downpours becoming more frequent on Prince Edward Island, whatever precipitation falls will create runoff that travels over the ground surface, if it isn't baked dry, and replenish surface and ground water. Though even such replenishment is unpredictable and may occur several months apart. As such, all water supply on PEI must be preserved and protected, kept public, and its use strictly monitored.
November 7, 2019
Good job prohibiting High Capacity Wells for irrigation. But in page 8, section 12, where it says that existing high capacity wells MAY be asked to comply with the Act within five years, that MAY should be changed to a SHALL. There should not be a double standard.
There is nothing in the regulations about making existing multi-well sites, that use holding ponds, comply with the act. It is obvious that most of these holding ponds were built recently in order to circumvent the Act. These multi-well sites must be made to comply (after 5 years, if it is to be in line with high capacity wells).
It is imperative that when assessing a high capacity well application, the effect on the natural environment should be taken into consideration. As of now, the regulations do not mandate this.Here is another MAY that should become a SHALL.
Under no circumstance should the recent constructed holding ponds be grandfathered in. These must be considered in terms of volume and fall under proposed legislation for high capacity wells. This is essential in order to rebuild trust with landowners and households. Those entities that took advantage of loopholes to proceed against the clear interest of the public and spirit of the law should not be given any special consideration. It has always been quite clear what those holding ponds are intended for and they should be treated as such.
November 6, 2019
The proposed regulations will have cost implications for rate payers. There will be added costs for additional water quality sampling and five year assessments.Wellfield development can be very costly. A five year term would not allow for a reasonable investment horizon. While unlikely that a permit would not be renewed. There appears to be a risk for this in the regulations.
October 28, 2019
I am definitely in favour of permitting agriculture to have access to high capacity wells for irrigation, provided that the the local watershed has capacity to supply water without impacting other residental/commercial wells or impact on surface water flows (ie. rivers/streams).
It is unreasonable that all other industries have access to water except agriculture, including things that are more wasteful like golf courses or car washes. Agriculture is the lifeblood of our province and should be supported, albeit in a sustainable fashion.
Ensure that the permitting process takes into account the capacity of the local watershed and monitors impact on the surrounding area. We have more than enough groundwater in PEI to allow for some moderate expansion in permits for groundwater extraction for irrigation. It should still be regulated and monitored, but it should definitely be allowed. No other jurisdiction in North America has such preferential and biased restriction on groundwater use unless the access to irrigation is already over-taxing on the groundwater resource (ie. California).
In terms of requiring permits on low capacity wells that need to be renewed every 5 years...this appears to be another layer of red tape that does not actually result in appreciable conservation of water. Investment in water monitoring and water conservation programs would have more impact. Provincial engineers and hydrogeologists should be empowered to make science-based decisions that conserve the resource without adding a layer of bureaucracy that doesn't improve sustainability.
October 17, 2019
Couple comments on the website:
Myth #4 - $5: While this make sense as far as our annual averages, this doesn't address the temporary reduction of water table in extended dry periods, like July-August, and how increased access to ground water would impact the table then, if it all?
Myth #7 - This is pretty misleading statement, imo. Yes the well itself does not create extra demand for water. The increased 'use' of water that necessitated the well is going to create extra demand for water.
A missing Myth I would like to have seen in the climate change topic is what, if any, rising ocean levels will have on saltwater intrusion of our water table. The act seems to prohibit agriculture irrigation above low capacity levels. Overall I am not opposed to high capacity wells for agriculture, concerned perhaps, but not opposed, with a couple caveats and maybe these should apply to all new high capacity wells regardless of industry:
1) Guaranteed protection put into the act for accidental impact on existing wells. If my neighbour puts in a high capacity well and suddenly my well is going dry or my water quality is impacted, then I want it fixed on someone else's dime and I do not want to have to get a lawyer to 'prove' impact and fight to get my well fixed. It should just get done.
2) I think increased access to ground water should be balanced against those activities that help increase the water table. One of the issues I have with increased need for irrigation is that we removed a lot of organic matter from the soil and that irrigation is really just a band-aid fix for the underlying issue of soil health. If someone gets a permit for irrigation, then it would be nice if the need to improve soil health/organic matter were requirements of the permit. Beavers have a very positive impact on ground water, be nice if folks started identifying areas where we can coexist with them and let them do their thing. Forests also have a positive impact on ground water, so lets increase those buffers around our streams and get more planted, not to mention the steep and marginal land. Sure we promote many of these things already, but to me it would be nice if they were tied together in the act. If you are increasing groundwater extraction by 2% then we need to find a way to increase our storage by 2%. In summary, not sure I agree with complete blocking of high capacity wells for agriculture as I think there is a middle ground where impact can be mitigated using various green infrastructure and ecosystem services. I also think that mitigation should occur for all industries needing high capacity access to our ground water. This could also be considered as our population increases and thus our domestic water needs as well.
October 7, 2019
The Water Act defines (and frequently mentions) the term ‘groundwater’ (“water occurring below the surface of the ground”). By hydrological definition, ‘aquifer’ is the only place below the surface of the ground where water is capable of being pumped from; whereas ‘groundwater’ is a considerably broader and more generic term to describe absolutely all of the water below the surface of the ground, whether or not it’s capable of being pumped. However, the term ‘aquifer’ is not mentioned in the Act. Also not mentioned, are the terms ‘recharge’ and ‘water-table’.
(1) Could the Regulations define the terms ‘aquifer’, ‘recharge’ and ‘water-table’ (although those terms are not mentioned in the Act)?
(2) Could Regulations specifically be about (and, mention) the terms ‘aquifer’, ‘recharge’ and ‘water-table’ (although those terms are not mentioned in the Act)?
September 27, 2019
I question 25(2) on the Water Supply System and Wastewater Treatment System Regulations. My question is this - with regard to Ammonia, total phosphorous, total Nitrogen is it correct to use a composite sample rather than a grab sample? My concern would be wether the chemistry of the water can change in a composite sample from a Biological Nutrient Removal plant? Would a grab sample for chemistry be better?
We are able and willing to provide either type of sample.
August 22, 2019
I disagree with allowing any deep water wells. PEI does not have an infinite supply of ground
water! And we are ALL dependent on the supply!
What has been puzzling me is why..for the past month ,well digging trucks have been driving
past our house down a road where there are only potato fields? Is there someone trying to get
wells dug before the regulations come into effect??
August 5, 2019
Scanned thru the regulations.
I see nothing on required setbacks from streams and Springs.
Are "environmental' flows defined?
More specifically are minimum flows for late summer and Fall defined?
July 12, 2019
Reading through I noticed inconsistencies. Section 2 sub section (9) states " A ground exploration permit shall not be extended more than once." I believe it should read "A groundwater exploration permit..." Section 6 sub section 3 would seem to affect home owners with wells and thereby require them to reapply to draw water from their wells every 5 years. This will be particularly onerous on many rural and often impoverished families. The plain language document does stipulate that domestic water wells are not included but that is not clear from the regulations for water extraction. I will need more time to review more completely the act and other sets of regulations to understand more fully the impacts to rural, and urban islanders. My personal opinion is that as much as possible agricultural practices need to seek methods that limit additional water applications. Looking to some European models to reduce water needs of crops could be a useful investment.
July 9, 2019
The water act needs to make very clear that water is a human right and that corporations are not welcome to profit by using more than their fair share. Once they reach the tipping point it will useless to say, "We made a mistake". We cannot make a mistake. Every farmer should be required to grow a minimum of 20% organic so they learn how to maintain moisture in the soil so that deep wells are not necessary. Our soil is our life and while some farmers are improving there is a long way to go particularly with the Irving farms who are abusing their privilege by digging ponds and buying more land than they are entitled to. (See photo) The soil on PEI is in terrible shape and cannot hold water. That is causing a multitude of problems due to run-off in our waterways. Fish kills are no long fish kills they are river kills. The fauna and flora are effected by this and it takes years to recover, if at all.
Most importantly, whatever the end result is in this act we must do a better job of enforcement. Enforcement of the water act and the land holdings act. Our future and future of our children depends on it.
March 14, 2019
Before permits are given for deep water wells for irrigation i feel that the province and the industry should have a good hard look at available surface water. for example next to home there is over one thousand acres can be irrigated from one. spot with a vert slight negative affect on the stream . there is plenty of surface water in the many larger streams and dams.
March 13, 2019
Do not allow the sale of our water to sellers of bottled water like Nestle. This is a resource to be kept for Islanders and preserved for the future. Also restrict deep water wells for irrigation use by off-Island corporate giants like Irving. Not only will they deplete our resource, they will also take the profit off Island. And their bad farming practices are turning soil into powder which blows away every winter. We need to do more to preserve our agriculture and to do that we need water that is well managed. More water collection such as ponds, more emphasis on preserving the resource. Less selling off to the corporate giants.
Comments on the Proposed Well Construction Regulations:
I believe it would be a great mistake to lift the moratorium on deep water wells.
Also regulations should be put in place to prevent growers from getting permission to put in 4 domestic wells which grouped together extract much more from one source than the permission intended.
Irrigation on a large scale can lead to big problems. I know of large stations/farms in South Australia where irrigation has caused salt to rise to the surface and the land had to be abandoned!
There is movement to grow different crops than potatoes which is great! Hopefully ones that can tolerate variable climate.
I am against the land grab by 4 members of a very large corporation who already is mining the large tracts of land to produce more and more potatoes.
PEI is a small (and getting smaller) Island and we have an ideal place to grow organic crops.I would like government to make it easier for farmers to transition into organic by having steps in the process to getting there.
I read that government is now buying some land to help young farmers get into the business at an affordable price. This to is a great move.
Bring on changes and save our precious soil and water!!
Comments on the Proposed Water Supply and Wastewater Treatment Systems Regulations:
I have to read up on this!
March 12, 2019
Comments on the Proposed Well Construction Regulations:
Say no to irragition and deep wells. Protect our water! Bad enough that they are killing us with sprays!!
Comments on the Proposed Water Supply and Wastewater Treatment Systems Regulations:
Take every step to keep our drinking water safe. Once it is poisoned it is too late!
March 11, 2019
It is important to make decisions that place environmental considerations above the immediate economic benefits for corporations. If private companies cannot be profitable without detrimental effects to our shared ecosystem then it is the companies business models that need to change rather than the regulations that should be in place to protect our environmental resources for generations.
Please limit the amount that can be taken out for big agriculture. We need to preserve the water supply as with dryer and hotter summers, and generally less rainfall allowing too much extraction could see this island in great trouble. Maybe its time to change what is grown here, and move away from crops that require immense amounts of water,
As a child, I lived on a small mixed farm with my farmer Dad, Mom, and 5 siblings. Our well water was delicious. My father grew potatoes, but there was no need for irrigation. I now live in a fishing community and have a beautiful water view. Even though we live several hundred feet from the shore, our water is brackish, full of minerals and salt- undrinkable. Much worse in the dry season. Also hard on appliances. I love my view, but what I would give to have fresh, clean water. Water is one of our most valuable resources. Good water means good health. No amount of money replaces delicious, Island water. As an Island our water supply is limited. Please look after it for us and our kids. Thank-you...
Plant roots will naturally grow deeper into the soil in search of water. If they are watered heavily, they don't bother. Not only should we water less, but we should also find/develop crops other than potatoes that suit our changing climate and not jeapordize our water supply. (Also concerned about city water supply that takes water from rural areas for urban use -- I can see the new water tower in Winsloe from my house -- disturbing.)
March 7, 2019
If my water supply is ever affected by the fields near my house, I will make sure the government dearly. Whatever regulations go in place they must protect islanders water supplies!!
March 6, 2019
We Must not waste our water irrigating potatoes while the sun shines...…….. !! Mary Jane !!
We must find a better seed potato for this climate
Robert : You do not have to own every acre of potato land on PEI...…… Do You??
Many Smaller Farmers have been put out of business...………. By Who ?? Guess !!