A recommendation to lift the current moratorium on deep-water wells is headed to government following unanimous support by the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture.
© Brian McInnis - The Guardian
A farmer irrigates his field in western Queens County in this 2013 file photo.
The resolution by the largest agricultural organization in the province was approved in a closed-door session Friday afternoon and will seek the removal of a 10-year-old moratorium on deep-water wells for agricultural irrigation.
However, the resolution is two-fold, and insists the moratorium removal is based on quality science and a significant water management program to monitor the resource.
“The members gave support to the lifting of the moratorium for supplemental irrigation purposes provided the Department of Environment has the science to back such a step,’’ said P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture executive director John Jamieson. “Our members recognize water is a public resource and we are all concerned about groundwater.”
Controversy has spiked over the issue of providing permits to farmers who are seeking supplemental irrigation wells to make up for a lack of summer rainfall.
Jamieson said irrigation isn’t exclusive to potato farms and is sought by those in other horticultural activities from blueberries to flowers.
“Let’s keep in mind that these irrigation wells aren’t going to be turned on from May until harvest,’’ he said. “The irrigation is only needed for the few dry spots during the growing season.”
Last year, a lack of rainfall in the central areas of the province impacted everything from carrots to potatoes and farmers say opportunities to irrigate during those dry spells would have prevented crop loss.
The federation annual meeting held Friday heard from provincial watershed manager Bruce Raymond, who said there was ample water supply on P.E.I. and adequate recharge rates as well. However, despite strong water levels, Raymond said all regions of the province could experience different impacts depending on the amount of water extracted.
“The federation resolution also insists that a solid water-extraction policy is implemented and controls where wells are dug and how much is taken …
it would have to be resourced managed,’’ said Jamieson.
The resolution, along with others, was approved during a closed-door session of the meeting. In the past, federation resolutions have always been debated in an open session during the annual meeting.