08/01/2012 07:52 EDT | Updated 10/01/2012 05:12 EDT

Charlottetown water use 'unsustainable'

Charlottetown is drawing too much water from its current wells, says the Winter River Watershed Association, and it wants the province to do something about it.

The city currently gets virtually all its water from the Winter River watershed. This year it has been right on the edge of the maximum allowable water use in its permit from the province. The watershed association says that's too much, and fish habitat is being threatened.

"Our focus is being on the fact that the permit that is issued to the city in 2010 allows the city to draw water at an unsustainable rate," said group spokesman Don Mazer.

The association wants the provincial Environment Department and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans to study the sustainability of water use from the watershed, and ultimately reduce the amount of water Charlottetown is allowed to pull from those wells.

Provincial Environment Minister Janice Sherry said she not looking at changing the policy any time soon.

"I'm not worried at the present time," said Sherry.

The situation on the Winter River does not look good currently. Water levels are low, and the Brackley branch of the stream has dried up entirely, but Sherry noted there has been little rainfall in the last few months.

"Certainly it would be great if we could get a couple of nice days of soft rainfall," she said.

But Mazer said the dry stream reflects a problem much larger than the recent dry weather.

"[It's] a long-term issue that does relate to the amount of extraction by the city of Charlottetown," he said.

The city has been working recently to reduce its impact on the Winter River Watershed. In the past few weeks conservation efforts by citizens have reduced water consumption by a few per cent. The city also struck a deal with Miltonvale Park for a new well field, which would be in an entirely different watershed. Those wells are expected to be online by 2015.

In the long term, the city is moving to get more households on water meters, which it expects will reduce consumption.

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