Skip to content

Barlow says Ontario bottled water proposals are “bare minimum first steps”

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow launches our Boycott Nestle campaign in Guelph on September 23.

The Council of Canadians is calling on the Ontario government to do much more to protect the human right to water.

This morning, CBC reported, “Ontario is proposing a two-year hold on the creation or expansion of bottled water plants… The province [also] plans to impose stricter scientific requirements for water taking permits such as studies on the cumulative impact of the practice on local supplies, especially during droughts. …[The Liberals] want more public transparency, and will mandate that companies create websites listing information about their water taking permits and showing the actual amounts taken every week. …[And the] province wants to make it mandatory for bottled water companies to reduce water takings during droughts like the one experienced this year in Wellington county, 100 kilometres west of Toronto.”

In response to this, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow comments, “These are bare minimum first steps. Cumulative impact assessments and mandatory reductions during drought should absolutely be implemented. But we need more than a two-year hold on the creation or expansion of bottled water plants. The Ontario government must implement a full moratorium on bottled water takings by phasing out water-taking permits for single-use containers, including Nestlé’s Aberfoyle permit. More than tentative first steps are needed to truly protect water for communities. We must work towards a bottled water-free future.”

The proposal to pause any new bottling operations could mean that Nestle may not be granted the provincial permit it needs for the well it recently purchased in Elora. Last year, Nestle applied for a permit to test water at that well. They hope to be able to eventually secure a permit to take 1.6 million litres of water a day from that well. The Township of Centre Wellington had tried to purchase the well, but Nestle outbid the community and now owns the well. Mayor Kelly Linton has stated, “[Having that well would have] meant that we could guarantee that commercial water taking would not negatively impact our water source.”

We believe that the Ontario government should require that Nestle transfer ownership of the well to the community.

Nestle is also seeking a provincial permit for a 10-year renewal of its current permit to extract 3.6 million litres of water a day in Aberfoyle. That permit expired on July 31, but Nestle has continued to pump water under the terms and conditions of the old permit as the ministry reviews its application.

The Ontario government has now opened a 45 day period for public comment which closes on December 1. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says the province’s review of bottled water takings will be completed this fall. For more information on that public consultation period, please click here.

In the meantime, we have launched a Boycott Nestle campaign that asks people not to buy bottled water. At this point, 38,596 people have now signed the pledge since it was launched at an evening public forum on September 22 in Guelph. To add your name to that pledge, click here.