PEI Holding Pond Survey Summary

Over the past few years there has been an increase in the construction of irrigation ponds throughout PEI. This is a result of the need for increased agricultural irrigation in dry summer months and the presence of the moratorium on high capacity wells – pumping rate higher than 345 m3/day or 50 igpm. Usually, agricultural irrigation equipment requires water flow around 200 igpm or higher. To achieve enough water flow, one or more low capacity wells from surrounding properties are joined together to fill the pond, or a cluster of low capacity wells are directly connected to one irrigation system. This allows the irrigators to pump at a higher rate out of the pond during critical times, providing a water source similar to a high capacity well. There has been increasing public concerns and complaints on environmental impacts by these low capacity wells e.g. depletion of stream flow and groundwater, drying up of domestic wells, etc. and allowing irrigators to irrigate large areas of land similar to that from a high capacity well.

To monitor and collect information on low capacity wells used for agricultural irrigation, the Department of Environment, Water and Climate Change conducted a survey of low capacity wells and ponds. A list of known holding pond locations was gathered and letters were sent out to irrigators to inform them that an inspection would be performed throughout the summer of 2019. Irrigators were then contacted individually to inform them when the inspection would take place. Most were present during inspections or were met with prior to inspection.

During the inspections, the coordinates of wells and ponds were taken as well as the diameter of these wells. The borders of the holding ponds were outlined with 4-5 GPS coordinates providing a rough measurement of the perimeter. Irrigators were interviewed during inspections for the following information: horsepower of pumps going in and out of the pond, height of berm, depth of pond, storage capacity of the pond, date of construction, etc. Photos were taken of all ponds and supply wells.

Across the Island, 27 ponds and 5 clusters of low capacity well systems were in use and 2 holding ponds were in construction in fall of 2019 with 2 wells drilled. In total, there are 86 low capacity wells. Of these, 65 wells feed 29 ponds and 21 wells were clustered to directly feed 5 systems. The majority of ponds were located in the Bedeque / Kensington / Malpeque area, and two large irrigators (Vanco and Indian River Farms) own the majority of the ponds and wells.

There is a wide range of size, with the largest pond inspected being 14,000 m2 and the smallest being 1,500 m2. The typical pond size is around 5,000 m2 and storage capacity around 3 million US gallons (about 11,350 m3). Pond depths were between 10 and 20 feet, but berm height was highly variable from 1 to 7 meters depending on the topography. The majority of holding ponds had a clay bottom or plastic liner to combat leakage issues that most pond owners ran into. Typically, 5 horsepower pumps were installed in the wells and 40-60 horsepower pumps were used for pumping water out of the ponds. Very few ponds were 5+ years old and those older ponds tended to be smaller. A large number of ponds  were located next to first order streams and/or wetlands.

Based on the survey, the Department of Environment, Water and Climate Change is able to make initial assessments of the potential impact of low capacity wells feeding irrigation ponds and cluster systems on the watersheds where they are located. All areas appear fine except one small watershed where the density of wells may be a concern for stream flow. Further information will be sought for this area.

Agricultural Irrigation Holding Pond Summary

  Total Built (number) Total Operational (number) Planned or Under Construction (number)
Holding ponds 27 27 2
Holding pond owners 14 14

2

Agricultural Irrigation Well Summary

Irrigation Water Sources Number

High Capacity Wells

 - Wells serving holding ponds

37

7

Low Capacity Wells

- Wells serving holding ponds

- Wells serving clusters (no holding pond)

-- Clusters without holding ponds

86

65

21

5

Surface water extraction permits 25

For further information or questions, contact:

Qing Li
Phone: 902-368-4668
Email: qli@gov.pe.ca