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P.E.I. farmers may soon apply for access to high-capacity wells for irrigation


June 11, 2021
By Ground Water Canada

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Charlottetown – Prince Edward Island’s Water Act, which comes into effect on June 16 with regulations, will in effect lift the moratorium on drilling high-capacity water wells, recommending that agricultural producers be treated the same as commercial or industrial users of high-capacity water wells.

Water Withdrawal Permits for new agricultural irrigation wells will be allowed if the irrigation is conducted in accordance with an irrigation strategy approved by the Minister of Environment, Energy and Climate Action. Farmers will not have access to new high-capacity wells this growing season, as applications for wells can start 90 days after the act comes into effect, in September.

The following regulations have been approved under the Act:

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  • Well Construction Regulations
  • Sewage Disposal Regulations
  • Water Supply System and Wastewater Treatment Regulations
  • Water Withdrawal Regulations

“Our primary interest is in protecting water through science-based decision making and research,” said Environment, Energy and Climate Action Minister Steven Myers in a news release. “Our agriculture industry and our watersheds have unique needs. The Water Act allows us to look at things like extraction, water levels and irrigation and ensure we are making the right decisions based on the sensitivities and concerns held by specific groups and by all Islanders.”

Sustainable irrigation strategy

The Standing Committee on Natural Resources and Environmental Sustainability provided seven recommendations to provincial government. Government is responding to each of them, including the development of a sustainable irrigation strategy. When the sustainable irrigation strategy is drafted it will be made public and will be sent to the members of the Standing Committee on Natural Resources for input.

“A sustainable irrigation strategy will be developed taking into account that each watershed is unique and for that reason a ‘one size fits all’ approach will not work across the province,”  Myers said. “The sustainable irrigation strategy will also have requirements for soil health and the agriculture industry will be required to follow sustainable soil health practices.”

Public comment encouraged

Several of the recommendations from the Standing Committee on Natural Resources have also been incorporated into draft amendments to the Water Withdrawal Regulations. These amendments have been provided to the Committee and are available publicly for comment on the government website.