Heavy rains on Sunday provided only temporary relief for the Winter River watershed, the main source of water for the city of Charlottetown.

Sarah Wheatley, watershed coordinator for the Winter River-Tracadie Bay Watershed Association, told CBC News water flowed only briefly in the upper reaches of the Winter River, between Brackley Point and Union roads, following about 16 mm of rain.

"Just before the rain the river had stopped flowing, so we were down to the puddles," said Wheatley.

"It's kind of just like a flash of water through the stream at this point. The staff were out [Tuesday] morning … The springs are just dry holes right now. Just kind of like a depression in the dirt, no water there, and there's no water flowing in the stream again already."

No room for fish

Wheatley said it is not possible for fish and other aquatic organisms to survive because the stream is so intermittent.

The problem, said Wheatley, is simply that Charlottetown has drawn too much groundwater for the springs to keep running. Fixing the problem would require a massive change in the amount of water the city takes from the watershed.

It is groundwater that allows P.E.I. rivers to flow all through the summer, she said, adding that with the groundwater at the level it is you would need rain every second day to keep the streams flowing.

With files from Stephanie Kelly