Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ontario Considers New Rules to Put Community Needs Ahead of Bottled Water Firms

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ontario Considers New Rules to Put Community Needs Ahead of Bottled Water Firms

Article excerpt

Wynne wants new rules for bottle water firms

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TORONTO - The bottled water industry in Ontario is facing renewed government scrutiny after a small township was outbid by multinational giant Nestle in its attempt to purchase a well to secure water supply for its growing community.

Premier Kathleen Wynne said Friday her government will look for ways to put community needs ahead of bottled water corporations.

"As we look at the water bottling industry, that has to be a question because we're talking about what we could argue is our most precious resource," she said.

"There is much pressure on our water, so as we have this discussion about our water, the status of and the treatment of water bottling companies, that needs to be taken into consideration."

Wynne's comments came after The Canadian Press reported on Nestle's purchase of a well near Elora from a privately owned company. Nestle said the new site would supplement "future business growth" and support its main-production site in nearby Aberfoyle, where the company has a bottling plant that employs over 300 people.

The Township of Centre Wellington Mayor Kelly Linton said they wanted to purchase the well to keep its water supply "safe" from commercial water taking long into the future, and to give the fast-growing community "control of our water source."

The New Democrats said that allowing a corporation to pump out water and sell it across Canada and beyond while a community is lacking water makes no sense.

"The danger is you'll have private companies squatting on water rights, effectively denying citizens access to their water unless they pay a ransom," said NDP environment critic Peter Tabuns.

In Ontario, municipalities, mining companies and golf courses -- in addition to the water-bottling companies -- are allowed to take a total of 1.4 trillion litres out of the surface and ground water supplies every day.

In her mandate letters to her cabinet, released Friday, Wynne tells Environment Minister Glen Murray that "immediate improvements are needed when it comes to water bottling practices, particularly in the face of climate change, the increasing demands on water resources by a growing population and concerns about water security."

It's time to separate bottled water companies from the many other sectors that have water-taking permits, including mining and construction, Wynne told reporters.

"It's not good enough from my perspective to say there's lots of industries that need water," she said.

"Water bottling is a different kind of industry and we need to treat it differently."

Nestle, which has 2,500 employees in Ontario, has said it is prepared to pay more if rates were increased, but only if all companies with water-taking permits face the higher fees.

"We fully agree that all groundwater users should pay their fair share to fund the management of our water resources and all users must be treated equitably," the company said. …

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