07/10/2012 07:20 EDT | Updated 09/09/2012 05:12 EDT

Charlottetown threatens water restrictions

If residents of Charlottetown don't start using less water, or if there isn't some rain soon, city council could start putting restrictions on water use in the city.

Those restrictions could include a ban on watering lawns, washing cars, or spraying off driveways or walkways.

Coun. Eddie Rice said with the lack of rain the city's water supply is reaching a crisis point. Rice has asked all city departments to eliminate unnecessary water use, and he's asking residents to do their part.

"We've got this ingrained habit that our car has to be kept scrubby clean," said Rice.

"I leave mine to God. I've never spoiled a paint job yet."

Rice said the water utility has draft regulations ready to go that would restrict water use by city homeowners.

Streams drying up

Since June 1, only 45.1 mm of rain has fallen at Charlottetown Airport. During that same period in 2011, 76 mm fell.

Members of the Winter River-Tracadie Bay Watershed Association can see the problem on the ground. The Winter River watershed, north of Charlottetown, provides the water for the P.E.I. capital.

"There were at least a dozen springs that were flowing here in the spring. Those have all dried up now," said Association co-ordinator Bruce Smith. Just three weeks ago he was canoeing in a stream he can now step over. Last year that stream dried up completely by the end of August, and he's concerned that will happen earlier next year.

"Unless we get consistent rain this portion of the stream is going to dry up," said Smith.

"With less water flowing, even downstream there won't be habitat for fish. The water will warm up. It won't carry enough oxygen for the fish."

The city has two well fields at either end of Brackley section of the Winter River that concerns Smith. The water taken from the ground also affects water levels in the river.

The group is hoping a new video and poster campaign will help convince people in the city to use less water, in advance of any water restrictions put in place by the city.

Rice said in the longer term residents should start preparing for the fact water meters are coming. Rice wouldn't say exactly when, but he said money for the meters could be in next year's budget.

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