Charlottetown conceals cruise ship water use

The City of Charlottetown should let citizens know how much water visiting cruise ships are using, says a local watershed group.
There were three cruise ships in Charlottetown Harbour Tuesday. (CBC)

The City of Charlottetown should let citizens know how much water visiting cruise ships are using, says a local watershed group.

Cruise ship traffic is setting records in the city this year. Over a period of five weeks this fall cruise ships will bring more than 80,000 visitors to the city, about a third of those this week.

But the boats are not simply bringing tourists and money to the city, they are also taking away fresh water.

"The ships require so much water in order to service their clients," said Coun. Eddie Rice, chair of the city's Water and Swere Committee.

"They purchase the water. They pay for it at a commercial rate."

The commercial rate for water is 85 cents per cubic metre, which is 1,000 litres. According to city documents, the 25 biggest water users in Charlottetown use up one-fifth of the city's water supply, but Rice will not say how much water the cruise ships use. Don Mazer, co-chair of the Winter River-Tracadie Bay Watershed Association has been trying to get that question answered.

"We're entitled to know where our water goes, and we feel we're entitled to know the particular efforts that are being made to reduce water usage," said Mazer.

Charlottetown gets virtually all its water from the Winter River watershed, and Mazer's group is concerned the city is drawing out too much. Some springs in the watershed are still dry, despite September's rain. Environment Canada has warned the city to curtail its water use.

Mazer would like the city to set hard targets to reduce water consumption, especially for the 25 biggest users. Rice didn't dismiss the idea, but said the city is not ready to take that step.

The city did implement conservation measures for residential users in September, but did not cut back on the amount provided to cruise ships. Rice said the amount of water used by the ships is a privacy issue.  The city needs the ships, he added, and the ships need the water.

The ships themselves do have on-board water conservation systems. One passenger visiting Charlottetown Wednesday told CBC News he wasn't impressed with the water available from the shower in his cabin.

"We're used to turning the tap on and having plenty of water over us, but we've got to get used to that today," he said.

Not every ship that comes into Charlottetown harbour purchases water from the city. Rice said the number that do is a matter that is between the cruise lines and the city.

For mobile device users: Should Charlottetown stop providing cruise ships with water?