The Chronicle Herald (Metro)
Shelburne seeks relief for chronic drought, dry wells
As the threat of another drought looms in southwestern Nova Scotia, the Municipality of Shelburne is lobbying the provincial Department of Municipal Affairs for “commitments and resources in relation to sustainable and long term assistance for residents with well water shortages.”
Municipal council approved sending a letter to the minister of Municipal Affairs when they met on July 14, as recommended by the Shared Services Team, which has representation from the three municipal units in eastern Shelburne County, including the towns of Shelburne and Lockeport.
All three units are being ask to write to the minister to advocate for more sustainable supports for those living with chronic drought conditions.
“Municipal and volunteer contributions over the years have been responsive and reactive to emergency drought situations. While these contributions have assisted many residents and supported those in need, we believe there must be more viable, consistent and easily accessible solutions,” reads the letter sent. “With extremely dry weather in the last five years this situation has become the new normal for many of our constituents and preparation for drought can be an excessive struggle and financial burden on their quality of life, medical conditions and mental health.”
Dry wells due to drought conditions have been an issue for some residents in southwestern Nova Scotia in 2016, 2018, and 2020.
“While we continue to educate and inform our residents on ways they can be more proactive in water conservation, the need for more robust programs, funding and supports remains,” writes the municipality. “We hope this matter is a priority for the Department of Municipal Affairs as we believe it warrants immediate attention.”
THE NEW NORMAL
Saltwire's chief meteorologist Cindy Day says she believes the trend of chronic drought conditions “will be the new normal."
"Not saying that we won't get the odd wet summer, but overall, this seems to be the direction we're heading in, especially over southwestern Nova Scotia," she says.
Day says climate change increases the odds of worsening drought in a few ways.
“Warmer temperatures can enhance evaporation from soil, making periods with low precipitation drier than they would be in cooler conditions. Droughts can persist through a 'positive feedback,' where very dry soils and diminished plant cover can further suppress rainfall in an already dry area," she says.
As it stood as of mid-july, precipitation in southwestern Nova Scotia so far this summer is 25 per cent below the long-term average specific to the region, says Environment Canada meteorologist Bob Robichaud.
“If we can compare to last year this time, we were looking at precipitation in the order of about 75 per cent below the long-term average,” says Robichaud. “Agriculture Canada has a map they update every month. Right now, they are calling it abnormally dry, they're not calling it drought conditions yet.”
Robichaud says according to the long range model to the end of August, the overall pattern looks likes most of Nova Scotia could be a little dry compared to the long-term average. Not by a tremendous amount, he says, but a little drier than the longterm average.
In previous years, the provincial Emergency Management Office (EMO) has worked closely with municipal emergency management co-ordinators during the dry conditions, particularly in southwest Nova Scotia, says Susan Mader Zinck, spokeswoman for EMO and the Department of Municipal Affairs.
“In 2016, government amended legislation to allow municipalities to finance improvements to residential wells through property taxes. There are several municipalities in Nova Scotia that have passed a by-law to offer such programs," she says. "Whether or not they offer a program is up to the municipal council and we respect the decision of the local government. We will continue to work with municipalities regarding this issue."