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Kathleen Wynne -- say no to Nestlé and all water bottling in Ontario

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Water bottles

For most Canadians getting fresh, clean water means turning on one of many taps inside our homes. Yet, some Canadians mistakenly believe water will continue to be available in virtually unlimited amounts whenever they need or want it. Truth is, access to water is a fragile arrangement that far too many Canadians take for granted.

Canada may be home to 7 per cent of the world's fresh water, but we have few laws protecting this valuable resource for current and future Canadians.

March 22 is World Water Day, a day to focus attention on the importance of freshwater and to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.

The Wellington Water Watchers (WWW), a non-profit organization primarily run by volunteer citizens from Guelph-Wellington, are committed to protecting local water and educating the public about threats to watersheds throughout Ontario.

A 2017 Mainstreet poll commissioned by WWW sampled over 4,000 Ontarians and found two-thirds of decided respondent support phasing out bottled water in Ontario over the next decade. Sixty-three per cent of decided respondents also agreed permits for all companies currently bottling water in Ontario should not be renewed.

 Respondents were asked to identify the most important reason for the cessation of extraction permits:

  • 33 per cent are concerned about the negative environmental impact of excessive water removal
  • 24 per cent disapprove of water bring treated as a commodity
  • 20 per cent are concerned about the excessive waste from plastic water bottles
  • 9 per cent believe bottled water undermines the perception that tap water is safe
  • 9 per cent selected other reasons
  • 4 per cent are not sure

The Ontario Government is currently conducting a review of the bottled water industry. But the Water for Life, Not Profit Program believes the best way to protect our water is by saying no to Nestlé’s plans to increase water extraction.

"Although the results of the review are eagerly awaited, improved regulations alone cannot protect Ontario's water. Premier Wynne herself has expressed serious doubts about bottled water -- now is the time for leadership. It is clear a decisive majority of the public agree it is time to phase out the bottled water industry in Ontario and ensure public ownership and control of municipal water," says Mike Nagy of WWW.

The Water for Life, Not Profit Program also calls on the Ontario government to:

  • Phase out the bottled water industry in Ontario within ten years
  • Respect the duty to consult Indigenous communities
  • Safeguard public ownership and control of water including prohibiting private/public partnerships known as P3's
  • Ensure public access to water by requiring public facilities to make drinking water available via drinking fountains

According to Rob Case, WWW Board Member, "In the extreme drought we experienced here last summer Nestlé was granted an indefinite extension to their permit for water bottling in Aberfoyle. That extension is still in place. Nestlé's Hillsburgh permit expires this coming summer, and Nestlé is vying for a third well here in Wellington County near Elora. The Premier must never allow a permit to be issued in Elora. Premier Wynne must also deny a renewal bid for Hillsburgh and take decisive action to phase out the permit in Aberfoyle."

Water is a human right. It should never be commodified. It must be held in trust for the public good. Based on the precautionary principle it seems Premier Wynne has little choice but to err on the side of caution and end water bottling in Ontario.

WWW are asking all Ontarians to urge Premier Kathleen Wynne to protect our water by saying no to Nestlé's plans to increase water extraction and to commit to phasing out water bottling in Ontario within ten years.

To that end, I'll be sending Kathleen Wynne and Glenn Murray, Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, an email telling them to place a moratorium on permits and the entire water bottling industry in Ontario. 

To mark World Water Day please endorse the Water for Life, Not Profit Program and say no to Nestlé.

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Image: Flickr/Daniel Orth

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