Government has received a lot of feedback about permits for high capacity wells and the supply of PEI groundwater for future generations. There is a lot of misinformation out there. Let's all get ON THE LEVEL about the quantity of PEI's water resources.
Myth #1: PEI is at risk of depleting its groundwater supply.
Reality: The amount of water withdrawn on PEI is a small portion of what is available.
Our groundwater is constantly recharged, moving in a continuous cycle from the point it reaches the water table to where it discharges through springs and seeps into our streams or at the shoreline. This is sometimes called a “groundwater flow system.”
On PEI, less than 2% of the annual water recharge is used. In fact, 33% of the recharge is safely available for use and 65% is reserved to ensure healthy environmental flows.
We know how much water is used and who is using it.
Myth #2: I hear about streams going dry, is my well at risk?
Reality: Streams are more at risk than wells. It is unlikely that your well is at risk.
The water table naturally rises and falls through the seasons. Generally, this is not a problem for wells but the same change in water level can have a significant effect on a stream.
While this is a normal, natural process, it can become more severe if very high levels of groundwater are extracted in a particular watershed. The assessment and permitting of high capacity wells intends to minimize such impacts.
Reality: Most wells drilled to today's standard are not at risk.
A high capacity well requires a permit from government, which is only issued if impacts on nearby wells are not predicted.
If your domestic well is located close to a high capacity well, you could experience a decline in water level while the high capacity well is pumping. When the high capacity well stops pumping or the flow is reduced, any problem should be corrected.
Government has the power (and the will) to address these situations.
Reality: Some areas of the country are expected to be drier because of climate change. Albeit, on PEI, overall annual rainfall is expected to increase slightly.
There are likely to be some changes in the seasonal distribution of rainfall with more rainfall occurring in the winter/spring period and less frequent rain in the summer. Since the largest portion of our groundwater recharge occurs in the spring, water table levels are not expected to change substantially. PEI has an established network to keep on top of climate change trends.
Myth #5: With climate change, will my well go dry?
Reality: Our groundwater recharge is not expected to change much. Most wells should be fine.
Although rainfall patterns are changing due to climate change, the volume of rainfall experienced on PEI is not expected to change substantially on an annual basis. Thus, the groundwater recharge is not expected to change significantly each year. The majority of wells should not experience problems, however, a number of other factors can cause a well to stop delivering water, including the following:
- pump is malfunctioning
- pump is set too high in the well
- problem with pump controls
- excessive water use all at one time
Some older marginal wells may just barely reach the water table and can be more vulnerable to going dry as the water table continues its natural drop during summer months.
Myth #6: There is a moratorium on high capacity wells.
Reality: The moratorium only applies to requests for new agricultural irrigation wells.
The moratorium does not apply to high capacity wells for municipal and industrial use or golf courses. On PEI, there are a total of 308 high capacity wells; 36 of them are for agricultural irrigation.
Myth #7: High capacity wells are bad for the environment.
Reality: High capacity wells do not create extra demand for water.
In fact, a high capacity well is a more efficient and safer way to provide water than many low capacity wells for industry or municipalities with many users. Referred to by some people as "deep water wells", the design is the same as domestic wells, and not necessarily very deep. A high capacity well taps the same groundwater resources that supply smaller domestic wells.