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P.E.I. chapter supports proposed ban on exporting bottled water from the province

Chapter activist Mary Cowper-Smith

The Council of Canadians P.E.I. chapter welcomes the proposed ban on the export of bottled water from P.E.I. noted in the province’s draft Water Act.

In a letter to the editor, chapter activist Mary Cowper-Smith writes, “With World Water Day being celebrated today, March 22, I am heartened to see that the draft Water Act released last week would make it illegal to export bottled water from P.E.I. The supply of fresh water around the world is disappearing and many parts of the world already face severe water shortages. Exporting P.E.I.’s precious fresh water is indeed a mistake.”

Cowper-Smith highlights, “Watersheds across Canada are under threat from this practice.  Fortunately, the popularity of bottled water has decreased significantly in the past few years. According to Statistics Canada, in 2013, 23 per cent of households drank bottled water as their main source of drinking water compared to 30 per cent of households in 2007. People are realizing that it requires 3-5 litres of water to create a plastic, litre-sized bottle and that the manufacture and transport of bottled water requires a great deal of fossil fuel.”

And she concludes, “They are recognizing that some bottled water actually consists of municipal water, including at least one brand on P.E.I. They are concerned about the serious problems caused by discarded plastic bottles. And they are learning that while municipal water is tested at least daily for safety, bottled water plants are only inspected on average every three years. Banning the export of bottled water, drinking tap water at home and carrying refillable water bottles are important ways to preserve fresh water and a good way to mark World Water Day.”

Charlottetown-base Council of Canadians vice-chairperson Leo Broderick has also been a vocal opponent of bottled water. In October 2015, he presented to the PEI Environmental Advisory Committee as it gathered input for this draft Act.

In September 2016, Broderick also 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. If the draft Water Act keeps the provision on bottled water, Pure Island would not be able to proceed with its plans.

The Guardian has reported, “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].”

The Water Act could be finalized later this year.