06/12/2013 12:56 EDT | Updated 08/12/2013 05:12 EDT

Nova Scotia town to launch geothermal project using water from old mine sites

SPRINGHILL, N.S. - The Nova Scotia town of Springhill has been given permission to use underground water as an energy source in what the provincial government says is the first municipal geothermal program in the province.

The government says Springhill can tap into water sources at old mining sites in the area.

Officials estimate there's an estimated 49 billion litres of water there — the equivalent of about 19,600 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

The geothermal heat is absorbed by mine water, which can be as much as 11 degrees Celsius higher than normal groundwater temperatures.

The water would be pumped to the surface and its heat extracted for energy.

Mayor Maxwell Snow says the mine water offers a renewable and sustainable energy source for the town, and a way to move away from a reliance on coal.