National water advocate joins chorus of opposition to deep-water wells in Prince Edward Island

Teresa Wright
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Chair and vice chair of the Council of Canadians, Maude Barlow and Leo Broderick, are raising concerns about a proposal to lift a ban on deep-water wells for agricultural irritation in P.E.I. They shared their concerns during a news conference in Charlottetown Wednesday. Guardian photo.

A national water advocate is lending her voice to a growing coalition of Islanders who believe lifting the moratorium on deep-well irrigation would be devastating to the P.E.I.’s water supply.

Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, took part in a news conference in Prince Edward Island Wednesday denouncing deep-water wells for agricultural irrigation unless it can be proven beyond doubt it would not hurt P.E.I.’s groundwater supply.

“P.E.I. is dependent on its groundwater,” Barlow said.

“We have to say no to opening up this moratorium until there’s absolute proof, and that is going to take democracy and that’s going to take consultation, and the industry just cannot just come in and say it’s a done deal.”

Barlow shared her concerns with Premier Robert Ghiz in a meeting Wednesday morning.

The issue of deep-well irrigation has become a topic of heated debate in Prince Edward Island.

Industry giant Cavendish Farms and the P.E.I. Potato Board have been lobbying MLAs and government officials for weeks to lift the moratorium. They want access to deep-water wells to supply potato fields with water for supplemental irrigation during the dry summer growing months.

And they say they have science on their side.

Two weeks ago, two bureaucrats from the Department of Environment presented data to the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry showing P.E.I. is using only seven per cent of water available for extraction within current environmental regulations.

The data also showed the rate at which P.E.I.’s groundwater is replenished every year to be quite high.

Environment Minister Janice Sherry said at that meeting the Island has “more than enough water to meet our needs.”

Despite these assurances, a growing chorus of opposition is rising.

A new Coalition for the Protection of P.E.I. water has been formed, made up of a number of environmental, social and political advocacy groups, including the Citizen’s Alliance of P.E.I., the P.E.I. Watershed Alliance, the Environmental Coalition of P.E.I., the Cooper Institute, several individual watershed groups, the NDP and Green parties of P.E.I. and even a local region of the National Farmers Union, among others.

“I sense that there is an agenda to have the moratorium lifted as soon as possible, and I’m hoping that doesn’t take place,” said Boyd Allen, spokesperson for the coalition.

“I don’t think that it’s been proven that there’s a need to do this to begin with.”

Both Allen and Barlow said P.E.I. needs a comprehensive water policy whose sole function is to protect P.E.I.’s water supply.

Barlow also argued the provincial data must be peer-reviewed before any final decisions are made.

She charges there is critical information missing from this data, including how climate change will affect the groundwater supply in the future.

“We have to be very, very sure that anything we do with water and to water and any withdrawals of water are for sure not going to hurt the future capacity of the watersheds. And there are far too many scientists and environmentalists and hydrologists who disagree with the assessment of the government for anything to move ahead right now.”

The Coalition for the Protection of P.E.I. Water will share their concerns with the MLAs on the environment standing committee Thursday.



Organizations: P.E.I. Watershed Alliance, P.E.I. Potato Board, Department of Environment Standing Committee on Agriculture Environmental Coalition Cooper Institute NDP Coalition for the Protection of P.E.I. Water

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Farmers Union

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Recent comments

  • Beautiful Water
    February 27, 2014 - 20:18

    This is already a done deal. Ghiz and the liberals have sold us out. Wait and see. This is going to DEVASTATE the island.

  • Wondering
    February 27, 2014 - 11:55

    I know Leo was a history teacher who opposes everything. What are Maude Barlow's credentials? Is she an engineer or geologist? Does she have any credibility on this issue?

    • Stewart Smith
      February 27, 2014 - 14:24

      Maude was Senior Adviser on Water to the United Nations. Now stop moaning, and do something positive.

  • Irishnannie
    February 27, 2014 - 08:34

    I would also like to see some interest in not only the quantity and availability but ........ the "quality" of "available" water. PEI is no different than any other place on earth. With the many ways we are affecting our environment the old saying ' "water water everywhere but not a drop to drink", comes to mind.

  • Jean
    February 27, 2014 - 07:01

    If they lift this moratorium it will be because Islanders have neglected to speak up. Please write a letter to your MLA and simply state that you do not want the moratorium lifted. Their email addresses are listed here. Or attend the meeting at the Coles building today at 1:30.

  • Vick
    February 27, 2014 - 05:37

    I had mixed feelings on the deep water wells but now seeing these two are protesting it I willbe voting in favor of it! These folks have no right to call themselves "Council of Canadian" I dont recall "canadians" electing you to repersent them???? These same folks have been against anything thats been good for PEI dating back to the Conferation Bridge to walmart to plan B......Please do us all a favor put your names on a ballot for ALL to vote you in to repersent them and when you see you have no support go to some third world country and live there happily ever after seeing its so bad here!

    • Reply to Vick
      February 27, 2014 - 14:10

      Every person who ever brought about change had hecklers like you who could find no better argument than to simply hate the messenger. I hope you have water to drink in ten years but if you don't, don't blame those who spoke up to try and save it.

  • Sammy
    February 27, 2014 - 00:42

    Leo if you don't behave yourself we are going to send you back to Tignish.. or worse back to Colonel Gray to teach History.. :)

  • don
    February 26, 2014 - 23:33

    Maude. you can do all the research you want and both sides will come up with the answers to suit them. and we all know the ghiz and sherry has already decided to allow the farmers to do the deep well draining of our water as big money talks more then water. but i ask you this after ghiz say ok to the farmers and then we all find out we have NO fresh water tell me how will ghiz cure that? but if i could any farmer using water during rainny days or during day light hours would be fined a min $5,000 fine if nailed the 2nd time $15,000 as water EVAPORATES and you know the funny thing is the so called governemnt and the farmer both is brain dead when it comes o mother nature just money to hell with fresh water. they want water use the well they have on the farm that they use for drinking water etc. and leave our water alone and the water for the ish. but i say now ghiz will allow the deep water wells due to big money is more important then drinking water. and to prove this is simple all ghiz had to say is NO THE lifting of the lifting the moratorium. but you see he did not so when we are forced to drink water and wash from bottled water can we send the bills to ghiz?

  • Steve
    February 26, 2014 - 22:01

    The way I see it, anything that Leo Broderick is against can't be all bad. Some people are just a little too impressed with their own opinion.

    • Ed Gallant
      February 27, 2014 - 11:45

      Steve.. what you said also applies to you. What makes your opiniom so worthwhile. You know what they say about opinions. Leo stands up for his beliefs,you stand for nothing. Why in the world would we listen to someone who doesn't have the decency to use your full name. And Sammy, Leo is quite welcome in Tignish.

    • Reply to Steve
      February 27, 2014 - 14:05

      I could say the very same about you, sir. At least Leo get out and does something. What have you done?