Record low water levels worry Winter River group

With provincial monitoring wells showing record low water table levels in the Winter River watershed, the local conservation group is getting worried.

'There's basically no snow left to melt'

This spring, designated #4 by the Winter River-Tracadie Bay Watershed Association, was running freely in December 2016, left, but was dry in December 2017. (Winter River-Tracadie Bay Watershed Association )

With provincial monitoring wells showing record low water table levels in the Winter River watershed, the local conservation group is getting worried.

The watershed is the source for most of Charlottetown's water, and problems related to the city's demands go back for years.

Concerns for this year in the Winter River-Tracadie Bay Watershed Association date back to December, when members found springs that would normally start running again in the late fall were still dry.

"Usually, around late November/December, things start flowing again, but this year they didn't," said watershed co-ordinator Sarah Wheatley.

"That's when we really noticed there was something different going on."

At the same time, the province's monitoring well in York hit its lowest level in the 15 years since it was opened.

Precipitation over the last year has been close to normal, but mostly due to big rains in May and August. It has been relatively dry since September.

"It's not really looking good since it's April and there's basically no snow left to melt," Wheatley said.

"Usually this time of year you get a big snow melt and that would help the groundwater recharge. With no snow, it's basically just cross your fingers and hope for a really rainy spring and summer."

'Lots of water'

While there may be an environmental impact from low groundwater levels, the City of Charlottetown is not anticipating a shortfall in the water supply.

"While we can see that the level is low, there is lots of water available," said Richard MacEwen, the city's utility manager.

"The concern is for the flow in the stream, and we recognize that that's important and the city has done great work, really, in reducing consumption."

Education programs and the installation of water meters have helped reduce the city's water use by 15 per cent, said MacEwen.

A new well field in Miltonvale Park, which began feeding water into the city on a test basis in recent months, will fully open soon, he said. With the capacity to supply about a quarter of the city's water, it is expected to significantly relieve stress on the Winter River watershed.

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Kevin Yarr

Kevin Yarr is the early morning web journalist at CBC P.E.I. You can reach him at kevin.yarr@cbc.ca.