'Hit and miss' rainfall not enough for potato crop, watershed
'You just hope and pray that Mother Nature looks after us'
While some areas on P.E.I. got a thorough soaking over the weekend others are still thirsty for moisture.
"Actually right where we're standing, we had about two and a half inches of rain in about 30 minutes," Alex Docherty told CBC News: Compass reporter Stephanie Kelly as they stood in one of his fields near Cornwall. Docherty owns Skye View Farms and chairs the P.E.I. Potato Board.
A nice little rain every week, that would kind of make up for a lot of the loss of groundwater, give the fish a puddle to swim in!— Sarah Wheatley, watershed coordinator
His fields just 1.5 kilometres to either side received no rain at all, he noted.
"So it was a very narrow band went through yesterday," he said. "Which is too bad, because it'd be nice — all of P.E.I. needs rain, it's not the just the potato guys, everybody needs rain, it's good for everything."
Province halts irrigation
"Water levels are still low in some areas of the province, particularly the Wilmot River area," a spokesperson for the province told CBC in an email Monday. The government has called a halt to permits for irrigation for three locations in that watershed.
"This is not unusual for this time of year. Water levels are monitored constantly and these areas will be reopened for irrigation use as soon as water levels allow," the release concluded.
Docherty missed the downpour on his farm — he was on a Sunday drive to North Cape, checking on the condition of potato fields along the way.
"I seen fields that had all the right amount of moisture and I seen some that were really starving for rain. It's really sporadic right now," Docherty pointed out.
The amount of rain the potato crop receives is very important at this point in the growing process, Docherty notes — after the plants have leafed out and blossomed, and are putting their energies into growing potatoes.
"Like, an ideal situation — we get 25 or 30 ml every week, perhaps at night," he said.
'Hit and miss'
"It was pretty hit and miss," agreed Sarah Wheatley, watershed coordinator with the Winter River-Tracadie Bay Watershed Association, of the weekend's heavy but isolated rainfalls.
Water levels now in the troubled Winter River watershed, for which Charlottetown depends on its water supply, are "on par" with other years, she said.
The group monitors problem areas, and Wheatley said springs between the Brackley and Union Road pumping stations are on the verge of drying up, which is not unusual.
"Like the farmers, we'd probably prefer a nice steady rain that goes on for a few days rather than these intense downpours, because that just causes erosion and other problems," she said. The moisture doesn't get a chance to soak into the ground, but rather runs over the surface and into ditches or drains.
"A nice little rain every week, that would kind of make up for a lot of the loss of groundwater, give the fish a puddle to swim in!" said Wheatley.
"You just hope and pray that Mother Nature looks after us, that's all you can do," Docherty concluded.
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With files from Stephanie Kelly