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Guelph chapter presents to City Council on Nestle water-takings

The Council of Canadians Guelph chapter presented to Guelph City Council last night on the issue of Nestle water-takings.

Guelph chapter activist Cameron Fioret read a letter from Maude Barlow that highlighted, “I ask that you vote to write a letter to the Ontario government urging them to reject the Aberfoyle permit and to place a moratorium on all bottled water takings.”

Guelph Today now reports, “After weeks of heated debate, scientific input, noisy rallies, passionate pleas at council and strongly penned words, the City of Guelph finally has an official stance for the province regarding future water-taking regulations. Following some last-minute tinkering at Monday night’s meeting of City Council, a motion was unanimously passed outlining what the city will submit to the province.”

570 News reports City Council agreeing to:

  • Supporting the 2019 moratorium set by the province.

  • Development of a provincially funded water management program.

  • Overall promotion of quality of tap water and consumption of public water.

  • Council direction of staff to continue to promote reduction of waste, recycling and reuse within the Guelph.

  • Consult First Nations communities that are affected by water-taking from bottled companies in Wellington County.

While this is significant, it is different from the motion originally introduced in early-September by Ward 2 Councillor James Gordon which called on the City of Guelph to formally oppose Nestle’s application to the province for a 10-year renewal of its permit to extract 3.6 million litres a day for its bottled water operations in Aberfoyle.

The original motion would have had the City send a letter to the province expressing “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”.

Still, the motion passed last night included these key elements:

  • support for a two-year moratorium on new and expanded water-taking licenses

  • a provincial water management program that would ensure an evidence (science) and principle-based approach to water-taking

  • that community or public water needs are a recognized priority

  • the review include the appropriate consultation with First Nations communities impacted by water-takings.

Out of this debate, a City “water budget and water quantity risk assessment” was produced that “determined through groundwater modelling that under an extreme drought scenario, there is a significant risk that the city’s water supply system will not meet the projected future demand”. That City report concluded, “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.”

In October, the Ontario government 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. To send your comments to the Environmental Bill of Rights Registry, please see our action alert here.