There was a packed house at the Coles Building as the standing committee on agriculture continued to discuss the lifting of the moratorium on high-capacity irrigation wells.
Representatives from both the P.E.I. Watershed Alliance and the Central Queens Branch of the P.E.I. Wildlife Federation spoke at the hearing, opposed to lifting the moratorium. Environmental groups say the scientific studies are nowhere near complete.
"But it has not been critiqued to a level that we would think is necessary in order to risk something as important our groundwater resource," said Megan Harris, with the Central Queens Branch of the P.E.I. Wildlife Federation.
Angela Douglas, with the P.E.I. Watershed Alliance said there is not enough information about potential environmental impacts associated with high-capacity wells.
“There are many knowledge gaps. One of them we see is the need for an independent peer review of the work that has been completed to date. Good science is peer reviewed," she said.
“We believe a moratorium on Prince Edward Island is still required, too many uncertainties remain."
The Island potato industry says growers need more wells to stay competitive and to produce a higher quality crop.
A group of potato farmers with the Innovative Farms Group explained why irrigation was necessary and, in their view, sustainable.
“The reality is we need to produce more potatoes on less land so that we can be more competitive which should be better for our environment and better for all of us all the way around,” said farmer Jason Webster.
Peter Bevan-Baker, the Green Party Leader, also spoke of the importance of getting the science right and putting a comprehensive water policy in place.
“When Islanders are asked whether it’s worth risking the long-term health of an irreplaceable resource, and the long-term security of their and their children’s drinking water simply in order to grow bigger potatoes, they will say that it just doesn't feel right,” he said.
P.E.I. gets all its water from wells, and the environmental groups supporting the moratorium are concerned high-capacity wells could affect both the quantity and the quality of what is available.