P.E.I. needs a single piece of legislation that covers all its water management policies, says Environment Minister Janice Sherry.

The P.E.I. government announced plans for a water act Wednesday morning.

Janice Sherry

The new water act will bring the province's water policies under a single, comprehensive piece of legislation, says Environment Minister Janice Sherry. (CBC)

"The implementation of a water act will demonstrate government’s commitment to managing water resources in a sustainable manner for present and future generations,” said Environment Minister Janice Sherry in a news release.

“There will be broad consultations with Islanders and experts in the development of the new act.”

The act will cover areas such as groundwater allocation, discharges into fresh and marine water environments, and mandate targets for water quality.

Currently water management and protection is governed by a number of different pieces of legislation, but no there is no comprehensive set of water policies embodied in one piece of legislation.

The development of a water act was one of the recommendations of the standing committee on agriculture, environment, energy and forestry.

The potato industry has asked the province to lift a moratorium on high-capacity wells for irrigation that was put in place in 2002, and that has also been a subject of discussion at the standing committee. Sherry said that no consideration will be given to lifting the moratorium until the water act and regulations are in place.

Gary Linkletter, chair of the P.E.I. Potato Board, said it is already too late to install new irrigation systems for this growing season, and a comprehensive review of water policy is a good idea.

"It's good that the province is looking at the water in a larger picture. We would hope that they would be prompt with this," said Linkletter.

"I mean I know they need to do it thoroughly and all this, but they do have a lot of research that they have done over the last 10 years, and I hope it's not used to stall things. I hope it's done promptly and thoroughly, and get the job done."

As part of the process for developing the water act, an official report outlining the government's intention will be released, public consultations will be carried out by an arms-length group and a review of legislation in other jurisdictions will be undertaken.

Sherry said work would begin immediately.