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Chilliwack chapter wants Nestle to “stop profiting from water”

The Council of Canadians Chilliwack chapter handed out leaflets in the community of Hope this weekend while Nestle held an open house.

Nestle’s promotion for the Saturday September 17 open house had the audacity to claim, “Like you, our passion is water”. Nestle advertised that the open house would feature “free BBQ and product sampling”.

In her new book Boiling Point: Government Neglect, Corporate Abuse, and Canada’s Water Crisis, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow writes, “The company takes about 265 million litres of water a year from this site and has done so for years, although verifying past takings is difficult because, until 2016, there was not only no charge for groundwater takings, there was no reporting requirement.”

Barlow adds, “Outrage abut the Hope site has been growing for years but exploded during the drought and wildfires of summer 2015. In a February 2016 report called “Water Rush”, Council of Canadians water campaigner Emma Lui noted that the District of Hope experienced Level 4 drought conditions [that summer]. In the report, she urged governments to establish a process for prioritizing water access, pointing out that many groups who participated in the [provincial government’s] consultation for the new [Water Sustainability Act] called for a hierarchy of water use, giving priority to human consumption, local food production, and security and ecosystem protection.”

The leaflet that chapter activists Suzy Coulter and Lynn Douglas handed out to local residents echoes that concern. It highlights, “Despite the drought last year and an unusually warm spring this year, bottled water giant Nestlé continues to extract 265 million litres from a well in Hope in Sto:lo Territory. The Province newspaper reported that Nestle’s well draws from the Kawkawa aquifer, which approximately 6,000 nearby residents in Hope rely on. The aquifer is part of the Kawkawa watershed connecting to the Coquihalla River, which in turn is tributary of the Fraser River.”

It is wrong that Nestle continued to extract water during that drought for export out of the region while local residents were asked to conserve water. It is also wrong that the “first in time first in right” approach means that bottled water companies like Nestle can have priority access to water over municipalities, small scale farmers, other community water users, as well as the needs of the local ecosystem, simply because they may have an earlier permit to take water.

In Boiling Point, Barlow also writes, “First Nations of the area are particularly incensed. The Chawathil First Nation is laying claim to the water Nestle takes from its Hope well, saying the well is situated in its traditional territory. Their claim is backed by the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, whose grand chief, Stewart Phillip, reminds us the law dictates that First Nations must be consulted on water takings in their territory.”

And as highlighted in the leaflet, “Nestlé pays $2.25 for every million litres of this precious resource and then ships it out of the watershed in hundreds of millions of single use plastic bottles for sale all over North America – at an astronomical mark up. Nestle generates an annual $9 billion in bottled water sales and has been privatizing groundwater all over the world, stirring up opposition from communities trying to protect their water. There are 17,000 glaciers in British Columbia and they’re all melting. Groundwater resources will not be sufficient for our future needs due to drought, climate change and over-extraction. We must not allow groundwater reserves to be depleted for corporate profit.”

We believe that Nestle should stop profiting from water.

Barlow will be speaking on these issues when her Boiling Point book tour is in nearby Chilliwack this coming November 21.