Nova Scotia

Dry wells have Chester residents calling for municipal water system

The prospect of another summer without water has some Chester, N.S., residents calling for a municipal water system to service the village.

'Even from May and probably right through to November, it'll be a problem,' says homeowner

Chester's village commission has considered building a municipal water supply. (CBC)

Wells are running dry in the village of Chester, N.S., again this summer and some residents believe it's time for a municipal water system.

About 800 people live year-round in the village, where businesses and residents rely on dug and drilled wells for their main source of water.

But each year, nature doesn't seem to supply enough water to keep some of those wells from going dry.

"As of a week ago, we're out of water again," said Bob Youden, who owns an apartment building and the Fo'c'sle Tavern. 

Businesses can't afford to run out of water

Youden, who is bracing for another dry summer, said it doesn't take long for his restaurant to go through a lot of water.

Last year, he said the business served 104,000 customers and simply cannot afford to run dry.

When the well does run out of water, Youden's only choice is to truck it in.

Chester business owner Bob Youden says it's time the village got a municipal water system. (CBC)

"We expect that we'll be buying water two to three times a week for the rest of the year, probably right up until December — and that's $300 a truckload, twice a week. It gets pretty expensive," he said.

Youden has also shelled out thousands of dollars for eight cisterns to hold the delivered water. Refilling a dug well is not an option.

The building across from the pub is also experiencing a well-water shortage before the hot, dry weather arrives.

"The gentleman who manages the building was in here a couple of weeks ago and said that the well was low already and the cistern was low as well," said Pat McNamee, co-owner of the Village Emporium on the main level of the building.

Bob Youden says when the well runs dry at his Chester pub, the Foc'sle, he has to truck in water at $300 a truckload, twice a week. (CBC)

'We've been conscious of it'

Tom Haney has lived in the village for 18 years. He said he's been lucky and hasn't experienced a well running completely dry, but admits his family takes measures to conserve water.

"We try not to, for instance, have showers, do a wash and put the dishwasher on at the same time. We allow the well time to regenerate," said Haney, adding that it's something he's mindful of — and not just in the summer.

"This year, we've been conscious of it. Even from May and probably right through to November, it'll be a problem," he said. 

Some Chester residents and businesses face water shortages from spring to late fall. (CBC)

Lack of water slowing development

Youden said the village has done a household survey to determine if there is enough support for municipal water.

Seasonal residents, who feel they don't need municipal water — and don't want to pay for it — are generally opposed to it.

But Youden said the scarcity of water not only makes it difficult for year-round residents, it also discourages development. 

"We have a fairly substantial demand for new properties in Chester, but there's no water. So, how could I ever build an apartment building and not have a reliable source of water?" he said.

"So we're building outside the village of Chester just because there's no water."

Now is the time for the village to spend the money on a clean, reliable water source, he said.

"If they get all their ducks in a row, the federal government and provincial government are willing to throw in a minimum a third each into the cost. The cost to the village would be one third the capital cost of the project."