The Province of Ontario has announced it will be charging water bottling companies an additional $500 for groundwater withdrawals.
Beginning Aug. 1, 2017, water bottlers will pay $503.71 for every million litres of groundwater taken. The government has instituted the new fee in order to help recover costs associated with managing groundwater taken by water bottlers, including supporting scientific research on the environmental impacts as well as enhanced data analysis on groundwater taken for water bottling.
“The fee of $503.71 is neither good or bad as we believe that these permits need to be phased out within 10 years,” said Mike Nagy of Wellington Water Watchers. “The water bottling industry states that they are being singled out, and we are okay with that as these permits are 100 per cent consumptive.”
Of Ontario’s announcement, Nestlé Waters Canada said, “Nestlé Waters Canada will accept the water pricing set by the government through the public consultation process. Unfortunately, it is not being applied in a fair and equitable manner across all groundwater permit holders.”
In December 2016 Rob de Loë, School of Environment, Resource and Sustainability, University of Waterloo, wrote for Water Canada that, “Water bottling in general, and Nestlé in particular, have become a sideshow and a distraction from much more important issues. Our focus needs to be on ensuring safe, secure water supplies for people and the environment in the face of growing pressures and uncertainty.”
“We encourage the Ontario Government to direct this fee increase towards improving scientific principles to effectively manage groundwater permit holders across the province,” said Nestlé. “A provincial regulator with the necessary financial resources is critical to holistically and indefinitely manage Ontario’s shared water resources.”
On the role of oversight, Nagy commented: “We want to see full cost recovery for the province on all water taking permits in order that we have a well-funded [Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change] in order that it regain the capacity to fulfill its mandate of protecting Ontario’s groundwater. The province has been recovering less than 3 per cent of these costs with current fees.”
Further action taken by the government of Ontario includes:
- Placing a moratorium on all new and expanded permits to take water from groundwater sources for water bottling;
- Introducing new, stricter rules for renewals of existing bottled water permits;
- Undertaking further research to ensure long-term water protection, including considering the impacts of climate change and future demand on water sources; and
- Engaging Indigenous partners, communities and industry on changes to water quantity management practices.
“We look forward to working with our partners across industry, government and the public to protect and improve our water systems while creating the conditions for shared and sustainable prosperity,” said Nestlé.
Water Canada’s ongoing coverage of Ontario’s water-taking fees can be found through the link, including articles from Nelson Switzer, Nestlé Waters North America, Mike Nagy, and Rob de Loë.