Canadians are waking up to a two-pronged water supply and environmental disaster. For ridiculously low prices, companies can take millions of litres of our groundwater that, while abundant now, could be desperately needed down the road by communities with growing populations affected by drought conditions driven by climate change.
The other part of the equation is the water is bottled in plastic – an environmental disaster that chokes our landfills, kills life in oceans and wreaks many other kinds of havoc.
Nestlé Grows Its Business at Our Expense
In Ontario, the fight for our water supply has been sparked by multinational powerhouse Nestlé outbidding a small municipality for rights to water that it will use to guarantee the supply of millions of litres it already draws daily and sells back to consumers in plastic bottles.
Already bottling up to 3.6 million litres of water a day at its nearby Aberfoyle operation, Nestlé bought another well from the Middlebrook Water Company last August. Even though it was outbid by Centre Wellington – seeking to ensure its community water supply – Nestlé won the bid because it had the right of first refusal, which it exercised.
Maude Barlow, the head of the Council of Canadians, points out that all in the wider area, including the city of Guelph, are nervous about how such unbridled access could have an impact on their future.
“If Nestlé gets the next permit fulfilled, they’re going to taking over six million litres of water a day from the Grand River watershed – a watershed, by the way, where there are 11,000 First Nations people without running water,” she says in a CBC interview. “The politicians just aren’t listening. They’re not acting fast enough, so we’ve called for a boycott and we’re going to take it into our own hands.”
The Nestlé Boycott
You can go to the Council of Canadians site to fill out a pledge to boycott Nestle. The page declares:
Many parts of southern Ontario and British Columbia have recently faced drought conditions. Yet Nestlé, a giant bottled water corporation, continues to pump millions of litres of water from watersheds in Wellington County, Ontario and Hope, British Columbia.
Groundwater resources are finite. Droughts, climate change and over-extraction continue to impact our limited water sources. At this pace, communities will not have enough for their future needs.
Water is a human right, commons and a public trust, to be shared, protected, carefully managed and enjoyed by all who live around it – not a source of profit.
Let's stop Nestlé from profiting from water. Together, we can ensure our water is protected for generations to come.
The Price Isn’t Right
One of the things angering local residents and concerned Canadians generally is the token price put on our water supply. Ontario was charging companies a paltry $3.72 for every million litres of water, after paying a permit fee of $750 for low- or medium-risk water takings. British Columbia charges $2.50 per million litres and in Quebec it is $70.
Responding to public criticism about abuse of water resources, Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Ontario government has recently proposed raising the price to $500.71 per million litres. (The government has also finalized a moratorium on new or expanded water takings by water companies until Jan. 1, 2019, and is seeking public feedback on the province’s guidance document for renewing water permits until this Jan. 31, 2017.)
But, as Mark Calzavara, Ontario organizer for the Council of Canadians points out, raising the price will not protect “valuable aquifers.”
“The government must stop allowing companies to take groundwater for single-use bottled water,” he says. “Bottled water is a frivolous and wasteful use of precious resource. Charging higher fees won’t replace the water removed from the aquifer and shipped out of the watershed.”
If you agree, and if you believe we must be allowed to manage or freshwater supply for all our long-term good, then boycott Nestlé and let government know how you feel.
Banner photo by: Korephotos.