Maintain moratorium on high-capacity irrigation wells, says report

A report on public consultations on a new P.E.I. Water Act addressed the hot issue of high-capacity wells for irrigation.

High-capacity wells one of the hottest issues during consultations

The new Water Act would protect P.E.I.'s rivers, streams and groundwater. (CBC)

There needs to be more research before the moratorium on high-capacity irrigation wells is lifted, says P.E.I.'s Environmental Advisory Council.

The council's report on public consultations on a new Water Act for the province was released Monday.

One of the hottest issues during the consultations was high-capacity wells, defined as wells that can pump more than 50 gallons (223 litres) per minute.

Examining every watershed

The moratorium on high-capacity wells for irrigation was put in place in 2002. There is no moratorium for other industries, such as food processors and livestock farmers, or for municipalities, and no recommendation to extend the current moratorium.

The council wants to see scientifically-valid reports prepared on the water budget for every watershed in the province. This would allow for a sustainable water allocation system for each watershed, the report says.

It would also like the process for approval and regulation of high-capacity wells to be consolidated.

A matter of regulation

Environment Robert Mitchell says any moratorium would be part of regulations under the Water Act. (CBC)

Speaking to CBC's Island Morning Tuesday, Environment Minister Robert Mitchell said a draft of the Water Act will likely be released by the end of the summer, and that will be followed by further public consultations.

The moratorium, however, will not be part of the act, he said.

"The act itself is an overarching piece of legislation," said Mitchell.

"The detail will be more in the regulation and policy that will be worked on simultaneously."

More than 400 people made presentations to the council during the first round of consultations.

With files from Laura Chapin