Groundwater supply in the Colchester County watershed area is not a concern at the moment but it is still important to manage the resource carefully, a provincial official says.
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.