Time to think of long-term solutions to water shortages, says N.S. minister

The minister responsible for emergency management in Nova Scotia says it’s time to consider a long-range approach to helping areas that experience water shortages in the summer.

Province is trucking drinking water to communities in Argyle, Yarmouth and Barrington areas

The Nova Scotia government plans to deliver drinking water to communities affected by dry wells this summer. (CBC)

The minister responsible for emergency management in Nova Scotia says it's time to consider a long-range approach to helping areas that experience water shortages in the summer.

Communities in southwest Nova Scotia, most notably the municipalities of Argyle, Yarmouth and Barrington, are once again getting reports from people whose wells have run dry.

The province announced Tuesday it would purchase drinking water for those affected communities. It's also helping with the trucking of non-potable water.

Chuck Porter, the minister responsible for the Emergency Management Office, said he's talked with municipal wardens for the affected areas about short-term help, but he said he also wants to talk to them about long-term options.

Chuck Porter, the minister responsible for the Emergency Management Office, says he wants to discuss a long-range approach to helping areas with water shortages. (CBC)

"Certainly the weather's changing, there's no doubt about that," Porter told reporters at Province House.

"I hate to call it the new norm, but we don't know what the weather brings. It seems like there's something new every season."

The province introduced a program in 2016 to help people deepen their wells or drill new ones.

The well at Leann Brannen's home in Lower West Pubnico went dry more than a month ago.

Her husband has a fish box on the back of his truck, which he gets filled daily to transport to another box they have on their property. Those big plastic fish boxes are a regular sight at homes throughout the area that have dry wells.

Praying for rain

"Our water is not coming from the well at all," Brannen told CBC Radio's Maritime Noon.

Two years ago their well also went dry, but this year is much worse, she said. She's hopeful rain in the forecast will help.

"I definitely hope and pray it will."

Gloria d'Entremont and her husband had an artesian well put in this summer at their West Pubnico home after experiencing problems with water levels two years ago. Artesian wells use natural pressure to draw groundwater to the surface from a confined aquifer without using pumps.

Plastic fish boxes like these were used by many people in the Municipality of Argyle in 2016 to hold non-drinking water after their wells went dry. (CBC)

"My husband said, 'This is it, we're not going to deal with all the stress of getting water.'"

The move wasn't cheap, with the final bill somewhere around $10,000, but d'Entremont said it was worth the money.

"We can't live without water," she told Maritime Noon.

Calls for helping increasing

Chris d'Entremont, the MLA for the area, said he's seen a big increase in calls from people who don't have access to water or whose wells have run dry.

"When it comes to just running your house, people are finding it very difficult," d'Entremont, the member for Argyle-Barrington, told reporters at Province House.

D'Entremont agreed with Porter that it's time to start thinking long term on the issue, possibly looking at extending water services into communities that experience problems with their wells.

He has concerns about the ability of wells to refill ahead of winter and the freeze that will come with that weather.

About the Author

Michael Gorman

Reporter

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia who covers Province House, rural communities, and everything in between. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca

With files from CBC Radio's Maritime Noon