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P.E. I. Water Act to come into effect in June 2021


February 22, 2021
By Ground Water Canada

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Charlottetown – Prince Edward Island will bring the Water Act into effect June 16, 2021. The will ensure government is able to manage and protect water resources for the common good, the P.E.I. government said in news release.

The Water Act is supported by four sets of regulations including updated Water Withdrawal regulations, which were the subject of public consultation in the fall of 2019. Under these regulations all water wells drawing above the level of domestic household consumption will require a permit.

Following public and community feedback, government is strengthening the water withdrawal regulations. Changes include:

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  • conservation of water resources is explicitly noted as a policy objective of the minister
  • government’s water withdrawal policy for healthy stream flow and aquatic environments is included defining acceptable levels needed to allow or prohibit extraction
  • the minister can require a drought contingency plan for selected, large water withdrawal programs
  • a provision is being made for construction of high-capacity wells for research in agricultural irrigation and there is a policy  to guide government’s decisions on research projects
  • a provision is being made to grandfather existing clusters of low capacity wells used for agricultural irrigation (for example, holding ponds); however, no new clusters that have the same impact as a high-capacity well will be permitted

As required under the Water Act, government will provide the regulations to the Standing Committee of Natural Resources and Environmental Sustainability for 90 days, at which point they will take effect. The regulations continue to be available online for public comment.

Under the provision for research, the Province will be permitting the proposal by the Canadian Rivers Institute at the University of Prince Edward Island into the impacts of high-capacity wells in agricultural irrigation and the environment. The Province will invest in the project, removing the need for financial contributions from industry. The research program is also being expanded to consider soil health and the relationship between soil health, nutrient management, and supplemental irrigation. Maintaining soil health and organic matter levels is important for soil productivity and for maximizing the benefits of supplemental water use.

Farms participating in the irrigation study will be asked to develop a Soil Health Improvement Plan. Producers will create individual plans for each farm property that outlines the management practices in place to support soil health; including the monitoring of soil health over time with soil health testing.

Additional enhancements are planned to support soil health through Department of Agriculture and Land including a merit-based program for the construction of erosion control structures, an incentive for soil building rotational crops, an increase in support for spring tillage and winter cover crops, and the addition of the soil health testing package to the long term Soil Quality Monitoring Project.

“Our goal at the Department of Agriculture and Land, is for a progressive, dynamic, agriculture industry that is both financially sound and environmentally responsible,” said Bloyce Thompson, Minister of Agriculture and Land. “I support decisions about water being informed by science and this research will provide valuable information on supplemental irrigation as part of a sustainable approach to farming.”