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Nestle bottled water-takings put Guelph’s drinking water supply at risk

A City of Guelph reports says Nestle water-takings pose a risk to Guelph’s drinking water security.

The Guelph Mercury reports, “Nestle’s water-bottling plant in Aberfoyle could conflict with Guelph’s plans for a new well in the south end to meet the city’s future water needs, a new city staff report says. The report, prepared for a special Nov. 7 meeting of council’s Committee of the Whole on the Nestle water-taking permit issue, says one of the city’s options to supplement its future water supply is a potential new water supply well near the southeast corner of the city. ‘The well, when it is developed, has the potential to conflict with Nestle’s water taking’, says the report.”

The City report says, “[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.”

The article adds, “The City of Guelph, Wellington County and the Grand River Conservation Authority have been completing a ‘Tier 3 Water Budget and Water Quantity Risk Assessment’, the report says, using technical rules linked to the province’s Clean Water Act and source water protection legislation. This Tier 3 assessment ‘has 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’, the report says.”

The Canadian Press has reported, “Ontario’s environmental commissioner is urging the Liberal government to get better information about the province’s groundwater as it reviews the permits for bottled water companies. Environmental commissioner Dianne Saxe said the government doesn’t have enough data to know what’s happening with ground water in Ontario. The environmental watchdog warned that climate change will increase the amount of stress placed on water with more frequent and longer droughts, but said the province still allows millions of litres to be taken every day out of the ground.”

Nestle’s well in Aberfoyle, just 3.2 kilometres from Guelph’s southern boundary, is currently permitted to take 3.6 million litres per day from a bedrock aquifer. The transnational corporation is seeking a new 10-year permit from the province to continue to be allowed to take that amount of water each day.

Sixteen delegations have now registered for the November 7 City Council meeting to speak to a motion by Councillor James Gordon which calls on the City of Guelph to send a letter to the province expressing council’s “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”. Those delegations include the Council of Canadians Guelph chapter, Nestle Waters Canada and the Canadian Bottled Water Association.

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow says, “In July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly recognized the human right to water and sanitation. As a result, there are now three obligations that governments must follow: the obligation to respect, protect and fulfill.” The Obligation to Protect means that local communities should be protected from the inequitable extraction of water by corporations.

The Council of Canadians is calling on the Ontario government to:

  • deny Nestle the 10-year bottled water taking permit it is seeking for its Aberfoyle well

  • deny Nestle the water-testing permit it has applied for in nearby Elora, as well as its water-taking permit in nearby Hillsburg when it comes up for renewal in July 2017

  • implement a permanent moratorium on new, single-use bottled water permits and a phase-out of the current permits

  • expropriate the Middlebrook well and transfer ownership to Centre Wellington which was outbid by Nestle when the township tried to purchase the well

  • provide just transition funding for retraining bottled water industry workers.

We have also launched a Boycott Nestle campaign asking people not to buy bottled water and other Nestle products. At this point, 39,358 people have signed the pledge since it was launched at a public forum on September 22 in Guelph. To add your name to that pledge, please click here.