Water Act white paper tabled by P.E.I. government

The long-awaited proposed Water Act discussion paper was tabled by the P.E.I. government in the legislature Wednesday.

'It's imperative that we get it right,' says Environment Minister Robert Mitchell

Minister of Communities, Land and Environment Robert Mitchell tabled the water act white paper Wednedsay in the legislature. (CBC)

The long-awaited proposed Water Act discussion paper was tabled by the P.E.I. government in the legislature Wednesday.

The use of P.E.I.'s groundwater has come under scrutiny as the potato industry has pressed the government to lift a moratorium on high-capacity water wells for irrigation and that is what set government on this path.

The white paper's release will set off a two-pronged consultation process starting in the fall. It will ultimately lead to new legislation to protect P.E.I.'s water supply — everything from drinking and wastewater, to wetland protection, industrial water use and high-capacity wells.

The government says the Water Act will put a science-based series of laws in place. It says it's looking for watershed groups, agrologists and other experts to come forward through the consultation process over the coming months.

"Our drinking water is so important to sustaining life in Prince Edward Island, so we have to get it right, it's imperative that we get it right," said Minister of Communities, Land and Environment Robert Mitchell.

Richard Davies, chair of the P.E.I. environmental advisory committee, says government wants to make it easy for Islanders to present their views on the proposed act. (CBC)
"With industry on the floor, with Islanders with their own concerns on the floor, we'll have a very valuable discussion. At the end of the day there will be no doubt something will come out of that in a positive way that both sides can probably say, 'Yes, I can be supportive of that.'"

After an initial round of consultations that are expected to begin this fall, draft legislation will be drawn up. There will be another round of consultations next spring before the final legislation is presented in the fall of 2016.

The province's environmental advisory committee will oversee the public consultations.

"Water is so important to everyone and we want to make it as easy as possible for all Islanders to have the opportunity of making a presentation be it online, be it in person," said Richard Davies, committee chairman.

Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker said. "I think we have to go almost watershed by watershed, because every part of the Island is different in its permeability, in the flow rates of the rivers, in the seasonal fluctuations."

Information about the proposed Water Act can be found here.

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