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Guelph chapter to challenge Nestle at November 7 City Hall debate

The protest against Nestle at Guelph City Hall on September 26. Photo by Kate Bueckert.

The Council of Canadians Guelph chapter will be challenging Nestle at an upcoming City Council meeting on November 7.

The Guelph Mercury has reported, “Local residents will get a chance in November to tell Guelph council what they think of commercial bottling of area groundwater, as a result of a motion passed unanimously by council after about 300 people staged a noisy anti-Nestle rally [on September 26]. …Supporters of [Councillor James] Gordon’s motion filled the gallery in council chambers and overflowed into a separate viewing room in city hall. The gallery gave Gordon a lengthy standing ovation after his opening remarks during the two-hour debate.”

Nestle is applying to the provincial government for a 10-year renewal of its 5-year permit (granted in 2011) to extract 3.6 million litres of water a day from the Grand River watershed. The Aberfoyle permit expired on July 31, but Nestle has continued to pump water under the terms of the old permit as the ministry reviews its application.

Deputations will be heard this coming Monday, and the motion is then expected to go to a vote on November 26. If the Councillor Gordon’s motion is passed, the City of Guelph will send a letter to the Ontario provincial government stating its “concern that the permit to take water is not in the best interest of the City of Guelph and the watershed shared by the City of Guelph”.

A recently released City of Guelph staff report, which could be central at Monday’s debate, highlights, “[There are] limits to the available groundwater to satisfy Guelph’s future water supply needs. …In the future, there is the potential for the Nestlé taking to constrain municipal water taking in the south end of Guelph, which may result in financial impacts as Guelph looks for other, potentially more remote and expensive water supply options. …As such, future renewals of industrial water takings in the area should be weighed against the broader needs of the community, the potential risk that available supply may not meet future demand and that the continued water takings may not be sustainable without proper management of the resource.”

And Ontario environmental commissioner Dianne Saxe has urged the provincial government to get better information about the province’s groundwater as it reviews applications for water-taking permits. She has also warned that climate change will increase the amount of stress placed on water in coming years.

In response to the public backlash over Nestle outbidding the Township of Centre Wellington and purchasing a local well in Elora that the community had wanted in order to protect its future water supply, the provincial government announced a public comment period (ending on December 1) and has proposed a two-year hold on the creation or expansion of any bottled water operations. The two-year moratorium would not apply to Nestle’s application to take water in Aberfoyle.

Seventeen delegations have registered for the November 7 Committee of the Whole meeting, including the Guelph chapter, Wellington Water Watchers, Nestle Waters Canada, and the Canadian Bottled Water Association.

To join our Boycott Nestle pledge – now signed by more than 40,000 people – please click here.