by Chris Seto
GUELPH — The province is asking the public to weigh in on whether it should extend a moratorium on granting permits for bottled water companies to take groundwater.
In December 2016, the former Liberal government placed a moratorium on any new — or expanding existing permits – to take groundwater to produce bottled water. It’s set to expire at the start of 2019.
Besides no new permits given, the order also prevents facilities from conducting pumping tests to see if groundwater in a given area could be used as a source for bottled water.
The current Ontario government is asking members of the public to submit comments about the issue and complete a one-question survey about their proposal to extend the moratorium until the start of 2020.
By extending the moratorium for an extra year, it “will give us time to further advance the ministry’s understanding of the water resources in the province, with a particular focus on groundwater takings by bottling facilities,” the government proposal reads.
With drought conditions seen in southern and eastern Ontario in 2016, and with the projected population and economic growth, and with the anticipated impacts of climate change, the concerns around water security in the province have intensified, the proposal reads.
Robert Case, board chair of Wellington Water Watchers, said the proposal is a step in the right direction and is much better than prematurely ending the moratorium, but the province didn’t go far enough.
“I think that the government should just move toward a phase-out of this industry,” he said, adding bottled water industries don’t add much value to communities they operate in.
“Up in Centre Wellington it’s already come in conflict with the community needs for access to water for a growing population.”
He’s referring to Nestlé Waters and the company’s purchase of a well near Elora in 2016 at the former Middlebrook Water Company site. The Township of Centre Wellington made an offer on the property but lost to Nestlé in the end.