Watershed group blames Charlottetown for dry stream
A stream that Charlottetown relies on for its water supply has run dry for the second year in a row and a local watershed group is blaming city council.
There is no water running in the Brackley Branch of the Winter River, and it has dried up more than a month earlier than it did last year. Provincial officials say it's unusual for rivers of that size to dry up.
There has been very little rain on P.E.I. Since May 1 only 106.3 mm has fallen, compared to an average of 238.3 mm. The season has grown progressively dryer, with just 10.3 mm falling so far in July.
But Bruce Smith, co-ordinator of the Winter River-Tracadie Bay Watershed Association, said the lack of rainfall is only part of the story.
"If we weren't pumping the water out of the ground the way we are those springs would still be flowing," said Smith.
Charlottetown has two pumping stations near the Brackley stream, and they've been running at full capacity in recent weeks. With Charlottetown depleting the aquifers, there's less water for the stream.
"They're using it for watering gardens, watering flowers, things like that," said Smith.
"They more they use, the more it gets extracted from Winter River and the longer it will take before the springs will start flowing again."
Smith said the effects of the dry stream will be felt around the area. He expects Hardy's Pond to go anoxic, choking plant and animal life, because of the lack of water flowing into it.
"Any fish that are in the stream will die; there's lots of raccoon tracks, there's great blue heron tracks. The stream ecology is gone," he said.
The City of Charlottetown has been urging residents to conserve water and water manager Craig Walker says daily demand is down from what it was last week.
But Islanders could see more dry streams this summer.
The P.E.I. Department of the Environment says some Island waterways are at their lowest level since 2008, when the province started its automated measuring.
"It's normal for rivers to reduce their levels considerably in the summer, but for a river of that size, that's normally that size, it is unusual and quite disturbing," said provincial biologist Rosanne MacFarlane.
The city is working on opening a third well, an emergency supply, to ease strain on the Winter River. It also recently required rights to a new well field in Miltonvale Park that could open in 2015. With that new well open, the city would reduce the amount of water it takes from the Winter River.
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