News Feature | October 26, 2016

Ontario Sets The Stage With New Rules For Bottled Water Companies

Dominique 'Peak' Johnson

By Peak Johnson

Earlier this month, environmentalists from Ontario, Canada were working towards convincing their government to deny Nestlé a water-taking permit at a well the company had purchased.

Originally, the township had attempted to buy the well for its future drinking water supply, but according to the Canadian Press in a story that appeared on The Huffington Post, the township lost out to Nestlé.

Nestlé had purchased the site as a backup for a well that it owns at its bottling plant in Aberfoyle, Ontario.

Nestlé, however, will have to wait two years before it can test the well, the Canadian Press reported. The Ontario government posted a proposed regulation for public comment on October 17, “that would impose a moratorium until 2019 on water taking permits for new or expanded operations that take groundwater to bottle and sell.”

In addition, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change will also cease issuing permits for pump tests that decide both the quality and quantity of water that is available for bottling. The Canadian Press reported that this is only until “the province completes a review of its regulations.”

"This really deals with the issue of water being withdrawn from aquifers and groundwater that isn't returned, and we just came through a summer of significant water stress,'' Environment Minister Glen Murray told the Canadian Press.

Ontario is not proposing any immediate increase in the $3.71 that it charges companies for every million liters of water taken, the Canadian Press reported. However, the posting of the Environmental Bill of Rights Registry did state that the province is "examining a range of pricing mechanisms ... to help protect and conserve water for future generations.''

"I expect we'll hear a lot on pricing, which is a very important concern for us,'' Murray told the Canadian Press. "We're also looking at a number of different policy outcomes on how pricing relates to conservation and how pricing and local planning can come together to get better regional water planning.''

According to Motherboard, Ontario Liberals “will make it mandatory to reduce the amount of water taken in drought-stricken areas, and will require scientific studies on the environmental effects of any new water-taking activities.”

“We are fully supportive and share the Ontario Government’s commitment to protecting water resources,” Debbie Moore, President of Nestlé Waters Canada, said in a statement obtained by Motherboard. “Through investment in an industry-leading monitoring program over the last 15 years in Aberfoyle and Erin, we have been sharing information with the government and local community. We will continue to offer this science and transparent data to all stakeholders that share our commitment to water sustainability and conservation throughout this process.”

The government wants stricter scientific requirements for water taking permits, The Canadian Press reported.

"As a result, the community will have to wait for critical data to inform future planning,'' Nestlé Waters Canada said in a statement.