Still plenty of water in the well

Harry Sullivan
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Still plenty of water in the well

TRURO - Commercial water use far outstrips that of local domestic consumption in the local water shed but there is still lots of H2O to go around, a provincial official says.
"We find throughout the province, all the watersheds still have plenty of room to be developed from a groundwater point of view," said John Drage, a hydrogeologist with the Nova Scotia Department of Environment.
"So it's comforting but we still have to be diligent."
Drage made his comments during a recent presentation to Colchester County Council regarding the local aquifer and groundwater supplies. Council had requested information from the department after some councillors expressed concerns over just how much water was being taken out of the system by the Canadian Springs (Aquaterra Corp.) bottling plant in Valley.
Drage said the company has approval to draw up to 981 cubic metres (981,000 litres) per day from the system while the Big 8 (Sobeys) soft drink company has approval to draw 655 cubic metres (655,000 litres) per day. He added, however, that neither company is utilizing their full water potential.
Overall, the 145 non-domestic wells
in the county are currently pulling 13,000 cubic metres (130,000 litres) daily while the 9,940 domestic wells account for 5,800 cubic metres.
That puts the Salmon River/Debert River watershed among Nova Scotia's top five most developed ground water sources.
"Having said that, it's still less than seven per cent developed, compared to how much water we think is available," Drage said.
And even though the area boasts one of the best bedrock aquifers in the province, problems can occur with individual wells if too many are located too close together.
"We can still have problems at the local scale," he said, "so we still have to keep our eye on the local-scale picture as well as on the big picture."
The province has numerous monitoring wells throughout Nova Scotia, including
three in Colchester County, so that a constant watch can be maintained regarding groundwater levels.
But one problem from a municipal planning perspective, when it comes to ensuring too many wells are not placed too closely together, is that there is no communication mechanism in place with the province, when environmental permission is granted for commercial bottling operations such as Canadian Springs or Big 8.
And Drage acknowledged to council, that "there needs to be a better link" between water allocation permits and the municipal land-use planning approval system. As things now stand, environmental decisions are based on current usage, as opposed to a municipality's future land-use planning goals.
As well, although commercial bottling operations pay an annual fee to the
province based on the volume of water extracted, Colchester council believes such companies should also be paying royalties to the municipality.
To that end, Drage said the issue of royalty fees is included in a water strategy policy that is being developed.

Organizations: Colchester County Council, Canadian Springs, Big 8 Nova Scotia Department of Aquaterra Sobeys

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Salmon River, Debert River Colchester County

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Recent comments

  • Gilliad
    March 01, 2010 - 14:40

    Mr. Cutten, I understand where you're coming from, and I most assuredly agree with you. It literally brings tears to my eyes when I drive down some of the lesser travelled highways in this province and see great swaths of slaughtered woodlands.
    My comment in this specific instance, however, is aimed at ground water management within long-time residential neighbourhoods. I won't be more specific than that for fear, frankly, of retribution.

  • Mark
    March 01, 2010 - 14:40

    Thanks for the thorough article, TDN.

    Smart water management involves more than just 'is there lots to draw from?'. It costs money and energy to source and purify municipal water.

    Should it be used to groom golf courses and lawns? Or should we encourage rain and gray-water use?

    Oh well.

  • Barton
    March 01, 2010 - 14:40

    Gilliad. Part of the solution has nothing to do with water management people, but that of forestry. The watershed in question has had a tremendous amount of trees cut from it, in piecemeal, over the past two decades. Along with the ever expanding housing lots and impermeable pavement being constructed the flash flooding is only going to get worse on average. What Colchester County needs is a comprehensive woodlot assessment and management strategy. The practice of clear cutting needs to be slowed down in our area. Take a look at the north and salmon river watershed on Google maps or Google earth and you will see the extend of the clear cutting.

  • J
    March 01, 2010 - 14:39

    They're obviously not too conserned with running out of water by the the thousands and thousands of gallons that they waste out the hydrants every spring and fall!!

  • Gilliad
    March 01, 2010 - 14:39

    Now if the powers that be could learn how to control the flow of said water - or if they know how to do that, put their knowledge into practice - so it doesn't constantly flood basements and properties in some residential areas of the county, everything would be hunky dory.

  • Wayne
    March 01, 2010 - 14:39

    Well folks if you are worried about clear cutting in this province, wait until they build that monster thermal generator at the Strait, using the forests to feed the fire to laughably produce green power. I'm sure it will only be a matter of a few years until they have turned Cape Breton Island into a moonscape and will look hungrily to the mainland. You can bet they will be trucking the trees from Truro, New Glasgow and Antigonish. This province is run by idiots.