Water Act Up for Debate

2017_11_30 Water Act_MLA

 

Prince Edward Island’s Water Act was tabled in the provincial legislature on November 23. Debate started the following week. Environmental organizations including the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water, of which the National Farmers Union (Region One, District One) is a member, have voiced concerns about some glaring omissions from the act, and are urging Islanders to let their MLAs know there are improvements to be made. Among those improvements:

  • there should be a recognition of Indigenous title and jurisdiction to watersheds,
  • the right to water should be explicitly stated,
  • the fracking ban should be unconditional, and
  • the moratorium for high capacity wells should be contained in the act

Water, NAFTA and Supply Management

District Director Doug Campbell made the following presentation at a public forum sponsored by the Council of Canadians on October 10. He was part of a panel discussion,  “Boiling Point: Water, NAFTA and Supply Management”, with co-presenters Maude Barlow (Council of Canadians) and Scott Sinclair (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives).

Here’s what Doug had to say (you can also download the presentation in pdf here:

Let me express my thanks for the invitation to speak to the Council of Canadians in my capacity as Region One District Director of the National Farmers Union. My presentation will centre on the recent Island focus on water use, our environment, and the NFU’s position presented at initial public consultations on the development of a water act; as well as at the draft public consultations. It is our understanding that the Prince Edward Island water act will be introduced in the Legislative Assembly this fall. Unfortunately as the act is not yet public I cannot address the actual proposed legislation.

Humans, animals, and plants are depended on water for their survival, their growth, and their productivity. Without water there is desolation, death, a barren landscape. Water is life. From the moment of conception humans and animals begin their lifelong relationship with water.

Therefore access to pure water needs to be a basic right for all, not a privilege for the select, or a source of economic power for the few. Canadians have witnessed the cost to so many of our First Nations people who have suffered greatly from inaccessibility to clean fresh water. Both governments and individuals have turned a blind eye to deplorable third world water conditions on reserves. Should we doubt that it could happen further a field? It is commendable that our government is taking steps to place itself in a guardianship role with the goals of ensuring provision of sufficient, safe, and accessible water for domestic purposes; and provide protection to ecosystems, while requiring public reporting and consultation, and basing water allocation using science-based facts.

Access to good water is to know health and prosperity. We only need to look at the parts of the world whose infrastructure has been damaged by recent hurricanes. The headlines read of the desperation for water. The plight of our water is the plight of all of us. It is good to note that the proposed water act of PEI states everyone has a duty to protect water.

However, the draft lacks recognition of water as a human and ecological right. It is the hope of the NFU that this is corrected in the proposed legislation. Such recognition in itself will set the tone of the legislation. Access to good water is the right of all. The source of water cannot become a commodity to be exploited in the market place.

Land, water, and air are a joint package. The NFU’s stance is that the debate on water, land and air cannot be separated. To ignore or mistreat even one is to greatly impact the others. Continue reading

Holding Ponds & Protecting PEI Water

Guest Opinion by Edith Ling,

Women’s District Director of the National Farmers Union

May 17, 2017

The general public needs to be very concerned about the construction of holding ponds used to hold water for agricultural irrigation purposes. It appears to me that these holding ponds are a way around the 2002 moratorium placed on the drilling of high capacity wells in this province.

At a meeting with Department of Environment officials on March 29, 2017 to review the draft Water Act, the question was asked about how these ponds were going to be filled. The answer given on that day was that there would be one well (low capacity) allowed per pond. That seemed to be a reasonable answer.

The same question was asked of the Dept. of Environment official at the public meeting to consider the draft Water Act in Charlottetown on April 10, 2017. The information given at that meeting was there would be one well allowed per property identification number (PID) per pond.

This is a substantial difference. Many farmers have a number of parcels of land, each with a different identification number and we know water can be piped for great distances. It is easy to see that the plan is to use several wells to fill these holding ponds.
In a telephone call to the same Department of Environment official, Jim Young, a day or so later, he was asked why the change had been made. He replied that there were no changes made. When he was questioned as to why he had not mentioned the property identification number involvement at the March 29, 2017 meeting, his response was “You did not ask.”

This is a totally unacceptable answer from a public servant. It would appear that not all the information was shared at the March 29 meeting or indeed a change has been made.
It is difficult to understand what the difference would be between one high capacity well filling a pond or several low capacity wells doing the same job.

Either way, hundreds of thousands of gallons of precious water are being extracted.

Even more interesting is the fact that the highest pumping capacity for a low capacity well is 50 igpm (imperial gallons per minute) while the lowest pumping capacity for a high capacity well is just over 50 igpm. Both wells will require permits.

I realize that the matter of these holding ponds will be dealt with in the Regulations under the Water Act. Regulations can be changed by the stroke of a pen at any meeting of the cabinet.

The general public needs to be vigilant about this matter and ensure that these holding ponds are not an innovative way to circumvent the moratorium on high capacity wells for agricultural irrigation. We need to make sure that our water supply is protected and preserved for this and future generations.

NFU Presentation on PEI’s Draft Water Act

Presented by Edith Ling and Doug Campbell, April 10, 2017

The National Farmers Union (NFU) appreciates this opportunity to comment on the 2017 draft of the PEI Water Act. We will begin by addressing what we see as omissions, followed by concerns about wording and intent. Then we will conclude with an expression of our appreciation for some aspects of the draft which we find hopeful. Most of what we have to say is based on the NFU’s recommendations to the PEI Environmental Advisory Council on November 3, 2015.

What is Missing

For the NFU the first and most obvious omission is that there is no indication of intent to maintain a moratorium on high capacity wells. From our perspective and given the community outcry during the 2015-2016 consultations, this seems almost outrageous. For real future control on high capacity wells it is imperative that this be in the Act.

We expected that the Act would establish a permanent ban on fracking. This omission indicates to us a lack of understanding of the potential threat of fracking to the quantity and quality of PEI water. Islanders need to be assured that no future government would approve hydraulic fracturing as a natural gas extraction process within PEI’s jurisdiction. Continue reading