Charlottetown-based Council of Canadians vice-chairperson Leo Broderick has highlighted that water bottled in Prince Edward Island would not be allowed to leave the province under the newly released draft Water Act.
The Guardian reports, “The draft was released on Thursday. It was created after a first round of public consultations.” In October 2015, Broderick presented to the PEI Environmental Advisory Committee as it gathered input for this draft Act.
Broderick has been a vocal opponent of bottled water. In September 2016, he called on the provincial government to halt Pure Island Water Ltd.’s plan to open a water bottling plant that would ultimately draw 100,000 litres a day from wells in Brookvale, PEI. He argued that groundwater belongs to everyone and that it must not be allowed to be put up for sale. The company had originally intended to export water bottled in PEI to China and Japan, but later amended its business plan to focus on eastern Canada and the New England states as their potential markets.
By November 2016, Premier Wade MacLauchlin’s provincial government had agreed to prohibit companies, including Pure Island Waters Ltd., from bottling water until the Water Act had been introduced.
Last night, Broderick commented on social media, “Bottled water companies will not be allowed to export PEI groundwater. This from the draft PEI Water Act. ’40. (1) No person shall withdraw, store, use or transport water from a well, watercourse or wetland for the purpose of removal from the province. (2) Subsection (1) applies whether the water is withdrawn from its original source or another source, including from a water supply system, and whether the water is in its natural state or is treated, flavoured or carbonated water.'”
Broderick has also called on the provincial government to legislate a ban on deep well irrigation to prevent long-term groundwater depletion in the province.
While the draft Water Act does not explicitly mention deep water wells, point 8 says, “The Minister may by order direct that an approval to withdraw water for commercial purposes, industrial purposes or recreational purposes shall not be given if, in the opinion of the Minister, the withdrawal would interfere with (a) the availability of water for domestic purposes; or (b) the maintenance of sufficient water flow in a watercourse for environmental flow needs.”
Broderick says its possible that this section could be used to stop deep water wells.
Overall, Broderick says that there is no outright statement recognizing water as a human right, only Section 2b that says the Act supports, “access for everyone to a sufficient quantity and safe quality of reasonably affordable and accessible water for personal and domestic uses, and to basic sanitation that is safe and hygienic, is essential for an adequate standard of living.”
He also highlights that there is no direct reference to fracking.
The Guardian adds, “The provincial government is inviting Islanders to comment on the first draft of its proposed Water Act. A second round [of consultations will begin on] March 30. Public feedback can be provided online or at public consultation sessions across the Island [including in Charlottetown on April 10].”
Broderick and The Council of Canadians will continue to evaluate and provide commentary and input on the draft Water Act.