Category Archives: ontario

Ontario Environmental Commissioner Decries Water-Taking “Free For All”

Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner issued a report critical of the province’s lack of control over large scale water extraction. Naturally, Nestle’s name popped up (it always does when large-scale water extraction is on the radar); its operation in Guelph was cited as a prime example of large-scale extraction run amok.

“We have a free-for-all, first-come, first-served basis on our water taking,” Miller told reporters as he released his annual evaluation of the province’s environmental record. “Whoever wants the water, applies for permits and they get it . . . There’s no assessment as to how much water is available and how much water should we reserve for the proper functioning of ecosystems and how much should we reserve for public use.”

In August 2007, the provincial government introduced a regulation requiring “highly consumptive” commercial and industrial water takers – like bottled water, beverage and fertilizer manufacturers – to pay a fee for the water they used. The fee is nominal however, just one cent for every 3,000 litres extracted according to Miller.

“They’re not paying enough,” he said.

Later in the article, Nestle’s water-extraction operation outside Guelph came under fire as a sterling example of exploitation of the province’s water resources – at a time when those resources are suffering from drought and climate change.

Last year, Nestle Waters Canada prompted an unprecedented public outcry
over its application to withdraw 2,500 litres of groundwater every
minute – up to 3.6 million litres per day, 365 days per year – from the
Aberfoyle well outside Guelph.

Provincial authorities ultimately granted the permit, albeit for two years instead of the five requested by Nestle.

And yes, like so many other places which prohibit bulk transfers of water outside a basin, Ontario’s law contains a loophole exempting bottled water from bulk transfer limits.

That same loophole exists in the just-enacted Great Lakes Compact, and yes, it’s written into the law here in Siskiyou County.

The ubiquity of the loophole suggests the extent of Nestle’s legal and political reach; Nestle’s clearly attempting to lock up water supplies now, knowing they won’t become less valuable in the coming decades.

As freshwater supplies continue to tighten – even in locations where water was plentiful – groundwater planning is fast becoming an issue. You can be sure Nestle’s legal operatives will be a part of those discussions.

(via Science Canada)

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