Increase water restrictions, watershed group urges city

A branch of the Winter River — the source of all of Charlottetown's water — is dry and a local watershed association is calling on the city to increase water restrictions.

Branch of Charlottetown's Winter River is dry again

A branch of Charlottetown's water source, the Winter River, is dry. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

A branch of the Winter River — the source of all of Charlottetown's water — is dry and a local watershed association is calling on the city to increase water restrictions.

The Winter River-Tracadie Bay Watershed Association says the stream goes dry most years.

"The areas on either side of this stream are owned by the city and they have a large number of deep wells at each location and they're drawing water constantly," said Sarah Wheatley, watershed co-ordinator.

"Basically nothing can live in this section of the stream. The fish, if they got this far in when the water goes dry, they would just die. Any aquatic vegetation, it just dies and rots. If you walk through the mud and the section of the stream here, it smells horrible."

Six springs have stopped flowing in the past month.

For the past few years, the watershed group has raised concerns about dried-up streams in the area.

The city says its seasonal restrictions are in place from June 1 to Sept. 30, placing limits on when residents can water their lawn and prohibiting hosing hard surfaces like driveways.

During that period, the city monitors daily water consumption. If the permitted pumping level for the amount of water it can draw from the watershed, as set out by the province, is exceeded over a five-day period, it moves to water shortage restrictions.

"We immediately put the control in where you're not allowed to wash cars. You're not allowed to do anything," said Edward Rice, chairman of the city's water and sewer utility.

The city says low levels of precipitation over the past few months have impacted the watershed.

According to Environment Canada, July was a dry month with only 27.8 millimetres of rain versus an average of 86 millimetres. August received a total of 173.6 millimetres — well above the average of 87. But 133.8 of that fell on two days, Aug. 22 and 27.

Rice says the city is currently only at 80 per cent of its permitted pumping level.

He says water conservation programs such as low-flow toilets have been successful.

"This problem has been going on for some time and we've worked hard at it. We've really worked very hard at educating the people and the education has worked," said Rice.

The city has already installed 1,200 water meters so people can keep track of the water they're using. Every house will have one within two and a half years.

And new wells in Miltonvale Park are expected to be completed next summer.

In the meantime, the watershed is encouraging people to conserve. The group is even giving out 40 low-flow shower heads.


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