P.E.I. agriculture minister says snow has recharged province's water table

Dave Stewart
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Agriculture Minister George Webster

The harsh winter may have been a nightmare for P.E.I.’s roads but it has been a blessing for the province’s water table.

Agriculture Minister George Webster told the P.E.I. legislature on Tuesday the water table has been completely recharged thanks to a record winter of snow.

The last couple of years has seen little snow, at least that stuck around, and hot, dry summers.

“We’ve had a significant amount of snow and, of course, the snow protects the soil from frost. What has happened over the past two to three weeks is we’ve got a nice slow melt . . . and it’s actually being absorbed in the soil and percolate down to the water table,’’ Webster told The Guardian following question period.

“This is the kind of spring you want. It may be a little hard on winter roads and so on but it’s excellent for the land and excellent for the water table. If you drive through the countryside you can see water percolating out of the ground. We’ve got a great recharge this year.’’

Webster said he’s not basing it on any science. There are no studies or numbers to back up what he’s saying. The minister said it’s his opinion, based on years farming the land.

“I don’t have any readings from the Department of Environment. They’re probably monitoring that but if you drive by the countryside I can see springs actually percolating up through the ground in places and that’s a real good sign that the water table is really high,’’ the minister said.

Bruce Smith, co-ordinator with the Winter River-Tracadie Bay Watershed Association, said the minister may not be far off in his assessment.

The Winter River-Tracadie Bay watershed is the only source of water for Charlottetown right now.

“We don’t really have a way of measuring the groundwater but there is no question that the springs are flowing very well,’’ Smith told The Guardian in an email.

The Department of Environment does have what is called reference wells. Smith said he heard levels in those wells are close to what they were last year but that more information will be available sometime in May.

Webster said he doesn’t think the City of Charlottetown will have to worry about water restrictions this summer.

“Oh, I don’t see any water restrictions whatsoever (necessary). We’ve got a great recharge this year and that will be good for Winter River, too, on a go-forward basis because Winter River was certainly pretty low on water last year.

“That’s no one’s fault. Charlottetown has grown by leaps and bounds over the last 20 years and the need for water is growing, too.’’

Work on a second water source for the capital city is currently underway in Miltonvale.

Webster said while the snow helped prop up the water table, the weather can still help out over the summer.

“My wish list would be an inch of rain a week.’’

dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/DveStewart

Organizations: The Guardian, Department of Environment, Tracadie Bay Watershed Association

Geographic location: P.E.I., Charlottetown, Miltonvale

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Recent comments

  • Andrew Lush
    April 21, 2014 - 08:51

    Water percolates through the aquifer at a few metres per year. At least that's what the government website says. So any idea that a good melt will fix us up with water for the summer is absolute nonsense.

  • UPWESTER
    April 16, 2014 - 15:52

    It's nice to see that Minister Webster has given Charlottetown his assurance that they won't have any water problems this summer (provived there are no deep water wells in use). I like the way his scientific approach is in line with Cavendish Farms. That same scientific approach is used to tell us that the fish kills are not caused by farmers spray lleching into the streams and rivers. Trout river is closed for the 4th year in a row, after fish kills in 2011, 2012 and 2013. It's nice tosee the minister take a "scientific approach" in his duties as Minister. He should also be able to see that the fish kills always happen after a very heavy rainfall, thus making the connection that it is pesticide run off that kills the fish. Sounds logical to me.

  • YOU DON'T SEE
    April 16, 2014 - 15:16

    You state QUOTE I don't see any water restrictions whatsoever(necessary).UNQUOTE I take it to assume that you are now an expert to the fact that we have water from the snow and we don't need restrictions on deep water wells. You are a piece of work and and appear to be an excellent spokesman for large potato farmers and producers. Hope they are around to help you when you manage to drain the province dry of drinkable water. Oops that's right, they just pack up and go elsewhere.

  • Not Big Agriculture
    April 16, 2014 - 14:12

    The phrase, "fox in the henhouse" comes to mind... Webster is nothing but a spokesman for corporate agriculture. He is simply setting the stage for another push to allow deep water wells for irrigation later this year. He is nothing if not persistent.

  • So bring on the deep wells right george
    April 16, 2014 - 13:00

    Based on absolutely no facts of measure, no statistical comparison the "Minister" makes a statement which is clearly slanted to his own bias of deep water well approval, from another Liberal Minister. funny eh?

  • I've got
    April 16, 2014 - 09:28

    I've got a lot in my basement if u want it.