New Water Act would ban water exports

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New Water Act would ban water exports

A first draft of P.E.I.'s new Water Act was released to the public Thursday.

It includes stiffer fines, tighter licensing requirements and a prohibition on the export of water.

"Groundwater, surface water, or water obtained from a water supply system, may not be stored or transported for the purpose of removal from the province, except for humanitarian purposes, and or the ordinary carrying of water necessary for travel," reads a portion of six-page synopsis of the draft legislation, available on the government's website.

P.E.I. Environment Minister Robert Mitchell told CBC News the draft legislation contains several new measures to protect ground and surface water.

"We've lowered the daily limit of water usage that would trigger a requirement for a permit," said Mitchell.

"We'll be diligently monitoring and tracking water allocation and usage all across the Island so we'll have a really good handle on that."

Business will have to reconsider

The provisions of the act do not rule out a water bottling plant, such as the one proposed by Pure Island Waters in Brookvale.

But Mitchell said Pure Island Water will have to reconsider its business plan, because no bottled water would be allowed to leave the Island.

"The fact that water can't leave Prince Edward Island today, certainly that will influence some business decisions in the future," he said.

Mitchell noted there are currently two bottlers operating on the Island, but he does not believe they are selling off-Island. However, the minister could not say what impact the act would have on current commercial operations.

"There's no permitting that we're aware of that allows them to export today," he said.

"We'll look at their situations. Certainly, we prefer and Islanders prefer that water is not leaving P.E.I. It's a very important precious resource."

Fines would increase

Fines for individuals would increase five-fold, to as much as $10,000 for violations. For corporations, fines could reach as much as $100,000.

The new Water Act would also require approval, for the first time, of low-capacity water usage. The draft legislation defines low-capacity as 25 to 346 cubic metres per day (5 to 50 gallons per minute).

Government seeks public input

Water use above 346 cubic metres per day will continue to require government approval.

Domestic use, less than 25 cubic metres a day, will remain unregulated.

The new Water Act would also create a public registry of all licensed water users in the province.

Government is now asking for more input from the public. Public meetings are slated around the Island starting March 30. People can also give feedback online.

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