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PEI chapter presents on draft Water Act at public consultation in Summerside

The Council of Canadians Prince Edward Island chapter presented on PEI’s draft Water Act at a public meeting in Summerside last night. Chapter activist Leo Broderick tells us, “It went well. There were about twenty people present.”

Public meetings will also be held in Charlottetown (April 10) and Pooles Corner (on April 12). The deadline for the online consultation is April 18.

Among the key issues:

1- Bottled water exports

Broderick has commented, “Bottled water companies will not be allowed to export PEI groundwater. This from the draft PEI Water Act. ’40. (1) No person shall withdraw, store, use or transport water from a well, watercourse or wetland for the purpose of removal from the province. (2) Subsection (1) applies whether the water is withdrawn from its original source or another source, including from a water supply system, and whether the water is in its natural state or is treated, flavoured or carbonated water.'” PEI chapter activist Mary Cowper-Smith adds, “I am heartened to see that the draft Water Act released would make it illegal to export bottled water from PEI.”

2- Deep well irrigation

Broderick has called on the provincial government to legislate a ban on deep well irrigation to prevent long-term groundwater depletion in the province. While the draft Water Act does not explicitly mention deep water wells, point 8 says, “The Minister may by order direct that an approval to withdraw water for commercial purposes, industrial purposes or recreational purposes shall not be given if, in the opinion of the Minister, the withdrawal would interfere with (a) the availability of water for domestic purposes; or (b) the maintenance of sufficient water flow in a watercourse for environmental flow needs.” Broderick says its possible that this section could be used to stop deep water wells.

3- Fracking

Broderick highlights that there is no direct reference to fracking. This is an omission that needs to be addressed – and a ban should be implemented.

4- Right to water

Broderick has noted that there is no explicit recognition of the human right to water in the draft Water Act. Section 2b only says the Act supports, “access for everyone to a sufficient quantity and safe quality of reasonably affordable and accessible water for personal and domestic uses, and to basic sanitation that is safe and hygienic, is essential for an adequate standard of living.”

The Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water similarly says, “The section on access to clean water was welcome, but Coalition members want to see stronger wording to more closely follow the UN’s resolution for the right to clean drinking water and sanitation being essential to the realization of all human rights.”

5- Precautionary principle

The Coalition says it is pleased the ‘polluter pays’ principle is included, though it notes, “The precautionary principle and intergenerational equity are identifiable in the purpose and goals, but [we believe] they could be more strongly worded.”

6- Citizen engagement

The Coalition notes, “[We believe] that there should be more ongoing opportunities for citizen engagement in water governance and decision making, with a particular emphasis on future consultation and collaboration with the watershed groups, as well as providing resources to assist their work.”

7- Pollutants

The Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water has also highlighted, “There were no concrete plans or steps to eliminate the pollutants in our waters. We know some of this will be in the regulations, but we want to see clear direction and action in order to improve the health of our aquatic ecosystems now and for the future.”

8- Flow rates

CBC reports, “The draft act allows Municipal Water Supply Areas to sidestep what are called environmental flow rates — in other words, ensuring water flow is sufficient to maintain the environment.”

The Winter River-Tracadie Bay Watershed Association says, “The way that it’s written right now, there’s a rather big loophole where they could continue to exceed the limits for however long they feel like.” The PEI Department of Communities, Land and Environment confirms that the draft Act would not stop Charlottetown from drawing so much water that branches of the Winter River watershed go dry.

For details on how to comment on the draft Water Act, please click here.