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Quick Facts about Prince Edward Island's Water

High Capacity Wells

  • There are 237 high capacity wells on Prince Edward Island.
  • About half of the population of Prince Edward Island is served by municipal utilities that get their water from high capacity wells.
  • A Groundwater Extraction Permit is required to construct and use a high capacity well. It can take months to obtain a permit as applications to withdraw large amounts of water require expensive studies to assess the potential impacts on groundwater resources, adjacent wells, and nearby stream flow.
    • A moratorium established in February 2002 prevents the issuing of permits for new high capacity wells for the purpose of agricultural irrigation. Currently there are 35 high capacity wells used for agricultural irrigation.
    • When needed, large users of water, such as municipal utilities, can have several high capacity wells in a well field. Large municipal utilities will have more than one well field to supply their customers' needs.

Types of Usage

  • Permitted groundwater extraction by golf courses is 10,000 cubic metres per day. The actual water use is limited to a portion of the year only and depends on weather conditions.
  • Most car wash water in our province is supplied by municipal water supply systems. A large car wash on Prince Edward Island uses about 7,000 cubic metres of water per year. The total amount of water used by all car washes would be less than 0.5 per cent of the total water used.
  • Twenty-nine per cent of high capacity wells are owned by municipalities; 24 per cent are owned by industrial and commercial operations; 15 per cent are owned by farmers for agricultural irrigation; 7 per cent are for smaller private central water supply systems; 10 per cent are used for fire protection and geothermal heating; 4 per cent are used for golf courses; and 11 per cent are salt water wells for aquaculture.

Biggest Water Users

  • Municipalities use about 10 million cubic metres per year of water. Industry uses approximately 4 million cubic metres per year.

Residential Wells

  • There are approximately 20,000 residential wells on Prince Edward Island. Private, residential wells can produce 0.02–0.05 cubic metres of water per minute at maximum flow.

Bacteria in Water

  • Approximately 2 per cent of private wells test positive for Escherichia coli (E. coli) each year. Bacteria levels in contaminated wells can fluctuate widely so the frequency of detection of E. coli is used as an index, rather than an absolute measure.
  • Escherichia coli in private wells is almost always caused by a malfunctioning septic system.
  • Proper well construction, and septic system design, and maintenance, provide the greatest protection against bacterial contamination for private well owners.
  • For municipal water, a combination of up-to-date system design and operation - including disinfection and monitoring water quality results - assures the safety of central water supplies.

Nitrates in Water

Man - despite his many accomplishments - owes his existence to a six inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains." - Unknown Author
  • Nitrate concentrations in Prince Edward Island groundwater average around 3 to 4 mg N per L, but can range from less than 1 mg N per L in pristine areas to over 10 mg N per L in wells located in intensively farmed areas of the province.
  • The drinking water guideline for nitrate is 10 mg N per L Island wide. About 3-4 per cent of private wells exceed the guideline and, in some heavily cultivated watersheds, more than 10 per cent of wells have levels greater than the guideline.
  • In 2013, 18 estuaries in Prince Edward Island reported anoxic events due to excessive levels of nitrates in their waters.

Sediment in Water

  • Soil sediment, carried in water run-off from land, adversely affects water quality and aquatic habitat in Island streams and wetlands.
  • All watershed groups on Prince Edward Island are working to remediate sedimentation problems in their watersheds.
  • Fifteen metre wide buffer zones alongside streams and wetlands are not totally effective in stopping soil sediment in run-off.
  • University of Prince Edward Island researchers are currently working to design a cost effective sedimentation monitoring program for the province.
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