pe-mi-gregwilson

Even a few days of rain will not help raise the river levels, says Greg Wilson of the P.E.I. department of environment. (CBC)

Dozens of farmers who rely on irrigation to water their crops when conditions are dry are being told to shut off the systems because rivers across P.E.I. are running low.

The province has suspended irrigation using water from the Bradshaw, Southwest and Wilmot Rivers as well as the north branch of the Dunk River.

"Tourists and stuff love the nice weather, but we need rain to help grow the crop. So it's hard to please everybody," said Peter Waugh of Albert E. Waugh & Sons in North Bedeque.

River levels are lower now than they were at the same time a year ago, said Greg Wilson, the province's manager of environmental land management.

"We're about a month ahead of the levels that we had last year. So about the middle of August, we started to have problems where we started to shut surface water irrigators off. And we saw signs of that already early in the first to second week of July of this year," said Wilson.

Even a few steady days of rain will do little to ease the problem, he said.

"What you'll see is a quick jump in the river levels. They'll come up within a few days or whatever else, and they'll stay there. But right after that, within three or four days, then you'll see them come back down to where they were before we had the rainfall."

So far, Waugh has done three passes with the irrigator. Because he's pumping from his own pond, he'll be able to keep doing that.

But he said some of his neighbours are feeling the pinch.

"There's no irrigation, so it's an all-drought for their crop. It's not helping any at all."

The province said if the conditions remain dry, they could put a halt on irrigation from more rivers by the end of the month.