Nova Scotia

Shelburne family making water deliveries to drought-affected seniors

The Swansburg family in Shelburne has been hauling water from the local fire station to keep their household going and now they're delivering water to seniors in need.

'I realized the situation was getting worse and that if I was in need then I'm sure there were others'

Ralph Swansburg has a trailer with two 1,000-litre water containers on it that he can pump water from into his house. He's also making sure other people have enough water to get by. (Facebook)

A Shelburne, N.S., man is doing what he can to help vulnerable people in his community during some of the worst drought conditions in more than a century. 

The water shortage in Nova Scotia shows no sign of ending and is now causing problems in communities inside the Halifax Regional Municipality, particularly along the Eastern Shore and Tantallon.

There are also water-use restrictions in and around Dartmouth, because of low levels in the lake supplying the area.

But the area of the province worst affected is the southwest where the water shortage is bringing out the best in many people.

'It's the right thing to do'

The Swansburg family in Shelburne has been out of water since their well went dry at the beginning of August.

Ralph Swansburg has been hauling water from the local fire station to keep their household going. He has a trailer with two 1,000-litre water containers that he can pump water from into his house.

"This year, I didn't foresee the water table coming back anytime soon, and so I decided to put a backup system in place. With that system, I had the ability to help others so it's the right thing to do," Swansburg told CBC's Maritime Noon.

"I realized the situation was getting worse and that if I was in need then I [was] sure there were others."

Swansburg reached out to the mayor of Shelburne to compile a list of people in need of water so he could started making deliveries.

'Time to step up and help'

The people he helps have been getting water from neighbours, if available, or from water donated through the emergency management office.

Swansburg's concern was that: "there were seniors who are too proud to ask for help or didn't have any family members or friends who could help them.

"I decided it was time to step up and help." 

He said the people he's helped have been very appreciative.

"It's not a big deal it's just what we do. I would hope that someone would do it for my parents if the need ever arose," he said. 

Swansburg said at some point the drought in Shelburne could become a "very critical situation" and when that happens the province will need to step in and help.

"There's been some talk of having wells drilled throughout the municipality to allow people to access water," he said.

Province unsure of next step

Zach Churchill, the province's minister of Municipal Affairs, isn't ruling out the option of digging deeper community wells in drought-affected areas though he's not sure that's what's needed.

"Right now supply doesn't seem to be the issue so I don't know at this particular point in time if digging a community well will improve the situation or not," said Churchill.

"The problem is that people who are on the dug wells and have gone dry don't have running water in their house, which is [a] major, major issue that we can all understand, how awful that would be." 

The water shortage is starting to get tiresome, said Swanburg.

"With a family of five it's a lot of stress and a lot of worry that you're going to run out," he said.

"I can only imagine what other people who don't have the ability to go get the water like I can — I can only imagine how they're feeling at a time like this." 

With files from Maritime Noon