New Charlottetown well field not easing demand on Winter River, says watershed group

The watershed group that cares for Charlottetown's main water source, the Winter River, says the city's new $8 million well field has done little to ease the demand on the river.

City utility manager says Miltonvale Park well field still not fully operational, behind schedule

Workers with the Winter River-Tracadie Bay Watershed Association monitor water levels and flow speed in the river and its streams once a week. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

The watershed group that cares for Charlottetown's main water source, the Winter River, says the city's new $8 million well field has done little to ease the demand on the river. 

Four months after the well field opened in Miltonvale Park, watershed coordinator Sarah Wheatley says the river's water levels, above and below ground, are about as low as ever for this time of year, with some readings at "historic lows."

"We were very hopeful for the well field ever since it was announced," said Wheatley. "But it was many years coming.  And we're still kind of waiting for it to be fully operational, and waiting and hoping for some improvements."

Charlottetown's new well field in Miltonvale Park, has been partially up and running since April. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Well field only pumping five days a week 

When the city opened the well field in April, officials said it would increase Charlottetown's water capacity by 25 per cent, and reduce the pressure on the Winter River and its three well fields. 

But Charlottetown's water and sewer utility manager Richard MacEwen says since opening, the new well field's only been pumping water Monday to Friday, between eight and 16 hours a day. 

We're still patiently, maybe impatiently waiting for more water to come out of that well field- Sarah Wheatley, Winter River-Tracadie Bay Watershed Association

MacEwen estimates that's increased the city's capacity by just five to ten per cent. 

"But I'm hopeful we're very very close to having it fully operational," said MacEwen. 

Watershed coordinator Sarah Wheatley says she's concerned the Winter River's fish habitats could be in trouble unless the area gets significantly more rain in August, and the new well field starts operating fully soon. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

'We've had to do it all manually'

MacEwen says the city has run into some snags setting up the technology it needs for the well field's booster station and water reservoirs to run automatically, including ordering in a wrong part. 

"So we've had to do it all manually, during the working day," explained MacEwen. 

"With every construction project, there's always a delay here and there. But we will eventually get to that finish line."

Wheatley says she was told a meeting with the city in June that the well field would be completed within the month.  

"But we're still patiently, maybe impatiently waiting for more water to come out of that well field, and a bit of a relief for the Winter River," she said. 

Richard MacEwen, the manager of Charlottetown's water and sewer utility, says the city has run into a few snags getting the well field's technology set up. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

'Really critical time of the year'

Wheatley says she's concerned that unless P.E.I. gets significantly more rain in August, the watershed and its wildlife could be in trouble. 

"August and September water flows are when they're the lowest of the year," said Wheatley. "So we're just about to that really critical time of the year.... There are effects on everything — on temperature, on fish habitats, on the other species that can live here.  So that water use in Charlottetown has a big impact on the entire watershed area."

The city says it hopes to have the Miltonvale Park well field operating seven days a week by the end of August.  

Wheatley says in the meantime, Charlottetown residents can do their part to help the watershed by cutting down on their water use as much as possible. 

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