Nova Scotia

Shelburne a 'living hell' for resident with dry well

The Roseway River has risen from 1.3 metres deep last week up to 1.67 metres Monday, which means the worst of the drought may be over.

Water slowly returning, but Raymond Green's well has been a muddy pit since Canada Day

Raymond Green said potable water is a precious item in Shelburne. (Preston Mulligan/CBC)

Raymond Green peered down into his well in his front yard near downtown Shelburne, N.S., Monday and there is still no sign of water. It's been nothing by a muddy pit since Canada Day. Life, he said, is a "living hell."

"It's really, really a hardship," Green said. "It's such a rough ordeal, going for water just about every day."

Once a week a neighbour, Ralph Swansburg, delivers about 227 litres of water to Green which he stores in three large garbage tanks beside his house. He'll go to Sobeys for drinking water, or Home Hardware. 

Green, who struggles with Parkinson's disease, said it's been hard work.

Potable water precious

"Trying to lug it home, get it into your house. You just don't realize how much water you go through until you've gone without it," he said.

Many of Green's neighbours have water in their wells, but he doesn't like to ask for any. He said potable water is a precious item in Shelburne and doesn't want to be a burden on his neighbours.

"We're suffering," he said. "There might be 1,000 people in Shelburne and the surrounding areas that are suffering with us. There's just not an answer to the problem. I mean, you pray for the rain dance to kick in every day, but it's just not happening."

Once a week a neighbour delivers about 227 litres of water to Raymond Green and he stores it in three large garbage tanks beside his house. (Preston Mulligan/CBC)

Water 'slowly coming back'

But there are finally some positive signs. The Roseway River runs southward into Shelburne from the overflowing lakes north toward Digby.

Last week Shelburne's emergency management office co-ordinator, Mike Shand, said the river was 1.3 metres deep.

On Monday it was up to 1.67 metres. The worst, Shand said, may finally be over.

"That hopefully means that the drought that we're seeing here — and for people with dry wells — that the water's eventually, slowly coming back," Shand said.

The Roseway River runs southward into Shelburne, and it's slowly rising again. (Preston Mulligan/CBC)

Municipal water supply up

There are a few others good signs too.

Rodney Lake which feeds the municipality's water supply is also up about a 2.5 centimetres.

Louise Lindsay, a hydrogeologist in Shelburne, said the town's reaction to the drought has been good, allowing people access to public showers and making a supply of potable water available.

Lindsay said it is volunteers, like Ralph Swansburg, who are taking on the big job of delivering water. Swansburg delivers water to Green once a week.

Town water survey

"What I haven't seen yet is leadership in terms of, 'How are we going to deal with this in the immediate long-term and how are we going to deal with it to prevent this kind of thing in the future?" Lindsay said.

One of the things she suggests is for the town to take a survey on wells that would determine how many exist in the area, where they are, what kind they are and how many of them are dry.

The town has started a survey and as of Friday had 203 responses.

At Green's house, he's worried about winter.

"Come winter if the frost kicks in and there's no rain, well what are we going to do? I don't have the answers," he said.


Preston Mulligan has been a reporter in the Maritimes for more than 20 years. Along with his reporting gig, he also hosts CBC Radio's Sunday phone-in show, Maritime Connection.