Fate of Island’s water supply leaves farmer wondering about future

By Samantha Steele

Oct. 7, 2015

Steven MacKinnon is a 7th generation farmer on P.E.I., but he is worried about his future, worried the island is running low on groundwater.

“I’m not saying there’s not some water down there, but how close are we to that edge?” he said at the Council of Canadians meeting on water on Sept. 22.

MacKinnon has a nephew who installs septic systems. He attends a meeting in the southern United States each year. When he mentioned water, the participants discovered he was from P.E.I.

“You’re from the population that makes up only two per cent of the world but relies 100 per cent on groundwater,” said the guest speaker.

MacKinnon was amazed someone knew about the island and scared as it was because of its water situation.

MacKinnon is not alone when it comes to worrying about island water.

Maude Barlow is the chair on the Council of Canadians. She spoke about how dire the global, and local, water situation is.

“If we were to pump the Great Lakes as mercilessly as we pump global groundwater, the lakes would be bone dry in 80 years.”

Since the mid-1950s, people have dramatically increased their use of groundwater. That’s why P.E.I. needs a water act tailored to its environment, she said.

“P.E.I. needs a water act that truly ensure the ongoing health of the ecosystem here and preserves water not only as a common good but as a public trust.”

Catherine O’Brien agrees with Barlow. She works with the Coalition for the Protection of P.E.I. Water.

O’Brien is pleased the government has arranged more public consultations to discuss the act, but there needs more public involvement in these meetings.

“If you have an issue, something you may have heard tonight, or something that you read about, please come to these consultations,”

Barlow closed the forum with a quote from water scientist David Schindler regarding politics and water.

“All you’re talking about is the economy but we’re going to forget all about the economy when we run out of water.”