Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change announced it is proposing a two-year moratorium on new or expanded groundwater takings by bottling companies, as well as stricter rules for renewals of existing permits. The announcement came on October 17, following public outcry to Nestlé Waters Canada’s bottling operations in southern Ontario.
The province said the proposed moratorium is the first of a number of steps it will be taking to protect Ontario’s clean water. It will apply to every water bottling facility that takes groundwater and is required to have a permit under the Ontario Water Resources Act. The proposed rules would reduce the duration of permit renewal applications from 10 years to a maximum of five years, as well as require increased public transparency, new operating guidelines, mandatory reductions on water taking during drought, and further scientific studies.
The government said it is also examining how pricing and other tools could be used to help manage and protect the Ontario’s water resources, and will provide an update later this fall.
Debbie Moore, president of Nestlé Waters Canada, said in a press release that: “We are fully supportive and share the Ontario Government’s commitment to protecting water resources.”
Nestlé also said that during the moratorium period, it will be unable to conduct a pump test on the Middlebrook well in Elora, Ontario, that it bought in August 2016. As a result, the community will have to wait for critical data to inform future planning.
The Council of Canadians, a social action organization, said the moratorium and stricter rules don’t go far enough. The organization wants the provincial government to expropriate the Middlebrook well and “give it to the municipality of Centre Wellington who need it for their drinking water.”
The organization is also calling for a permanent moratorium on new, single-use bottled water permits and a phase-out of the current permits, as well as consent from the Six Nations of the Grand River about any future use of the Middlebrook well.
This isn’t the first time the Council of Canadians has targeted Nestlé over bottled water. In September, they launched a pledge to boycott Nestlé products, saying that: “We must not allow groundwater reserves to be depleted for corporate profit.”
For more information on the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change’s moratorium and groundwater rules, visit: www.news.ontario.ca