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Farmers tell committee of need for deep wells
Teresa Wright, The Guardian March 6, 2014
A group of potato farmers got a chance to present their more controversial side of the growing debate over deep-water irrigation Thursday, telling MLAs they believe the moratorium should be lifted.
Jason Webster, Kevin Schurman and Gordon McKenna, of the Innovative Farm Group, made a presentation to the provincial standing committee currently examining the issue of deep-water wells.
They were last in a long line of presenters Thursday in Charlottetown, all of whom firmly denounced the harms of lifting the current moratorium on the wells.
“We’re feeling a little bit like a bunny in a lion’s den, I guess, today, but at the same time we think it’s fair to have our chance to let you know what our industry and our group would have to tell you what our opinion is on irrigation,” Webster said.
They showed candid photos of potato farmers with their wives and children, playing in the snow or in front of a camper in the summer. They explained that farmers who wish to use deep-water irrigation are responsible Island producers just trying to make a living.
Irrigation would not use vast quantities of water, they argued.
“We need the water as badly as you do, we’re not one bit interested in hurting it, but if it’s there and we can use it, and use it responsibly, we would really like to be able to use it,” Webster said.
The farmers said irrigation helps their potato crops realize a better yield and turn a better profit.
They also said P.E.I. farmers are at risk of losing vital processing and table markets without the ability to guarantee quality. Just one dry week in the summer can make a major difference in size and quality.
“We need the ability to be able to supply consistent, high-quality product to keep our processors interested in staying here,” Webster told the committee.
“Both our main processors have plants in other growing regions where they’re enjoying higher yields and more consistent quality. And unfortunately, we have to beg the question, if you were in business today, how long would you stay at a higher risk, lower quality area before moving your production in your long-term plan somewhere else? If we decide to totally never lift the moratorium on high-capacity wells for irrigation, we will be taking that risk.”
The committee chamber was once again filled to capacity and even overflowing with concerned members of the public. Some even had to stand in the hallway outside the room.
A number of environmental groups made presentations, including the P.E.I. Watershed Alliance, the P.E.I. Wildlife Federation and the Green Party of P.E.I., voicing concerns over how deep-well irrigation could affect groundwater levels or potentially contaminate P.E.I.’s water supply.
All of the environmental groups called for an independent review of the data compiled by the Department of Environment showing the Island uses only a small percentage of available water.
They also called for legislation to be enacted that would regulate and protect groundwater in P.E.I.
Even local representatives of the National Farmer’s Union firmly argued the moratorium on high-capacity irrigation should be kept in place.
So did Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker.
“I am certain that when Islanders are asked whether it is worth risking the long-term health of an irreplaceable resource and the long-term security of their and their children’s access to ample water simply in order to grow bigger potatoes, they will say that it just doesn’t feel right,” Bevan-Baker said.
“It is intuitively wrong.”
Increasing pipe freeze-ups predicted: Likely 70 cases a day until frost leaves
Aldo Santin, Winnipeg Free Press March 7, 2014
Another day, another 45 Winnipeg properties without water. And it's only going to get worse.
Warming won't stop water main breaks
Phil Tank, The StarPhoenix March 7, 2014
The weather is warming, but that doesn't mean Saskatoon will get immediate relief from water main breaks.
A long stretch of extremely cold weather has resulted in ground frost reaching about three metres deep, far enough to affect most buried pipes in the city. The temperature Sunday is expected to hit 3 C and hover around the freezing mark for the next week, but that's not expected to alleviate the problem.
"There still can be frost in the ground," said Trent Schmidt, the city's acting director of public works. "Just because it warms up doesn't mean it's going to get any better for us."
Water mains have been rupturing at nearly twice the rate of last year, with 117 breaks as of Wednesday compared to 74 in the same time frame last year. There were seven breaks on Wednesday alone, and 35 since 9 p.m. last Friday. The yearly record for Saskatoon is 160 breaks in 1996.
The public works department has 34 employees divided into four crews working on the breaks. The city has four water trailers deployed to provide water to affected neighbourhoods and is preparing a fifth trailer.
The city has also delivered 350 19-litre water bottles to homes and businesses without water. As of Wednesday afternoon, 12 locations throughout the city were without water.
"We are not alone," Schmidt noted. "The entire province is dealing with similar situations."
Schmidt said the water main breaks have occurred throughout the city and have not been concentrated in older neighbourhoods. by the numbers
350: Number of 19-litre water bottles delivered to homes and businesses.
160: Water-main break record set in 1996.
117: Water-main breaks this year, the most since 2003 (115).
69: 19-year average, 58 (fiveyear average), 51 (three-year average)
3: Forecast high for Sunday.
2.9: Average depth (in metres) of ground frost.
48: Target in hours for repairing a water-main break.
Experts: Great Lakes to get temporary boost from snow and ice, but long-term prospects unclear
The Telegram March 5, 2014
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - Water levels in the Great Lakes are expected to continue a steady recovery this year, courtesy of widespread ice cover that is slowing evaporation and snowfall that has approached record amounts in some cities, federal experts said Wednesday.
The siege of polar air that has gripped the region this winter has caused the most extensive freeze-over of the lakes since the record-setting year of 1979, when nearly 95 per cent of their surface area solidified. On Tuesday, the ice cover reached its highest point since then — 91 per cent, said George Leshkevich, a physical scientist with the federal Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor.
Meanwhile, the towering snowpack rimming the watershed will melt this spring and much of the water will flow into the lakes or the streams that feed them. The runoff is expected to be so bountiful that some areas will be in danger of flooding, a prospect that could be worsened by ice jams on swollen rivers.
"Any additional rainfall on top of that snowpack would add to that flood threat," said Keith Kompoltowicz, hydrology branch chief with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers district office in Detroit. "We're certainly paying very close attention to the weather in the next few weeks."
Great Lakes levels dropped sharply in the late 1990s and have remained mostly below normal since. Scientists blame a warming climate, which promotes evaporation and limits ice cover, and occasional dry spells.
The drop-off was most severe on Lakes Michigan and Huron, which hydrologists consider one water body because they are connected and at the same height above sea level. They fell to the lowest point on record in January 2013, while the three other Great Lakes — Superior, Erie and Ontario — were well below average.
The prolonged slump hammered the shipping industry, forcing vessels to carry lighter loads to avoid scraping bottom in channels and ports. Marina owners lost money as slips were too shallow for boats to dock. Vegetation sprang up along waterfronts, frustrating hotel and cottage owners.
But the last 14 months have seen a long-awaited comeback, fueled by plentiful snow and rain. Superior and Michigan-Huron's seasonal rises were almost double their average gains in 2013.
And the signs continue pointing upward. The snow's water content is the highest in a decade on Lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron. The snowpack is the equivalent of 9.5 inches of water around Lake Superior. It holds 4 to 8 inches of water in the Huron-Michigan basin, 3.8 inches around Lake Ontario and 1.8 inches around Lake Erie.
Ice cover has prevented evaporation and could keep water temperatures cool enough to delay the next period of heavy water loss to the atmosphere, Leshkevich said.
A short-term forecast prepared by the Army Corps predicts water levels will continue rising for the next six months. Michigan-Huron are expected to be 9 to 14 inches higher than during that period in 2013 — although they'd still be 9 to 12 inches below their long-term average.
Superior is forecast to reach 13 inches higher than a year ago this spring and might edge above its long-term average for March. If so, it would be the first time the lake has topped its monthly average since 1998.
Lakes Erie and Ontario are expected to move above their long-term averages in the next few months but could dip below them as the summer wears on.
Despite the improving levels, Kompoltowicz cautioned it was too early to declare the lean times over.
"There's always a chance that beyond that six-month window, a return to drier conditions happens," he said.
Officials working on water plant on remote Cree First Nation
Winnipeg Free Press March 5, 2014
Federal officials say they are close contact with York Factory First Nation, the remote Manitoba Cree community that lost its water supply a week ago.
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