167. Groundwater and Agriculture (2007)

Groundwater and Agriculture

In the 2000s, the Geological Survey of Canada collaborated with Prince Edward Island to address the sustainability of its groundwater resources in the context of agricultural practices, a changing climate, and the province’s great reliance on groundwater – PEI residents are dependent on groundwater for potable, industrial, and commercial water use.

A large part of the provincial economy is based on intense agricultural activities, with resulting high nitrate levels in drinking water due mainly to chemical fertilizer used on potato crops. The Survey’s isotopic study of groundwater showed the important contribution of nitrogen released by plant residues from harvest in groundwater nitrate concentrations all year long. These dominate in winter, and add to the chemical fertilizer effects during the farming period.

Following the public release of the results, all politicians running in the 2007 provincial election addressed the issue of nitrate contamination in groundwater. Soon after the election, the PEI government set up a Parliamentary Commission on Nitrates in Groundwater to assess the situation and, using new knowledge from the Survey, recommended the development of new policies and regulations for groundwater quality and farming practices.

Category: Science Advances

Decade: 2000s

References

The Report of the Commission on Nitrates in Groundwater, 2008, 58 p. http://www.gov.pe.ca/photos/original/cofNitrates.pdf

Savard, M.M. and Somers, G. (ed.), 2007. Consequences of climatic changes on contamination of drinking water by nitrate on Prince Edward Island; Earth Sciences Sector, General Information Product 61, 142 p. doi:10.4095/225775

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