The Wellington Water Watchers say the permit for Nestlé Waters in Aberfoyle, Ontario expired on July 31, but an automatic extension was granted without consulting local residents, and so continues to extract water from a local well even in the midst of a severe drought.
In a press release, Nestlé Waters Canada wrote:
“Although our permit expired on July 31, 2016, we have received confirmation from the MOECC that during this application phase, under the Ontario Waters Resources Act, Section 34.1 (6), the existing Permit to Take Water remains intact until the MOECC moves forward on a decision. We will continue to operate as usual….
“Our factory in Aberfoyle has operated for the last 15 years sustainably and Nestlé Waters is not asking to increase the permitted water taking limit – Nestlé Waters is applying to maintain the current permit level over a 10 year period. “
Nestlé’s permits allow the company to take millions of litres each day.
How much does water cost?
There was a sale on Nestlé water at my local grocery store a few weeks back. 6 litres of water packaged in 12 plastic bottles for 99 cents. Twelve 500 ml bottles, that’s 6 litres of water. It works out to 16.5 cents per litre. That’s a pretty good deal, right?
Until you consider what your water bill would look like if you had to pay 16.5 cents per litre. In Guelph the rate is $1.59 for a cubic metre of water.Footnote That’s works out to $0.00159 per litre for tap water at home. If it cost 16.5 cents a litre, a cubic metre of water would cost us $165.00. So, okay, it stands to reason, we’re paying a lot more for a bottle of water because companies are in business to make money. We’re paying extra for the convenience of getting that water in a bottle. Everything is relative.
If Nestlé paid $1.59 for 1000 litres of tap water (like we do), then charged us 99 cents for it, the company would make a handsome profit. But it doesn’t.
The reality is that citizens bear the cost of building and operating the infrastructure that supplies and treats water that Nestlé so profitably puts in bottles.
“For every million litres of water, Ontario charges companies $3.71 after paying a permit fee of $750 for low or medium-risk water takings, or $3,000 for those considered high risk.
“The amount these companies pay for taking out water represents 1.2 per cent of the government’s total water-quantity management costs. A number of people, including former environmental commissioner Ellen Schwartzel, have criticized the ministry for not raising the amount to take such large quantities of water.”
To put it into perspective, while Nestlé pays $3.71 for every million litres of water, at $1.59 per cubic metre, the same amount of water would cost a Guelph citizen $1,590.00.
Meanwhile in Guelph, “The average residential annual bill (based on 180 cubic metres consumption, the estimated annual volume consumed by a family of three) will go up by $31 or 4.0%.”
“If residents and businesses weren’t using water wisely, rate increases would be higher than they are today. For example, from 2006 to 2014 the City’s $8.6 million investment in water conservation and efficiency programs has reclaimed over 7.1 million litres of water and wastewater servicing capacity per day. The cost to build and operate infrastructure to supply and treat this much water would be approximately $35.6 million in capital costs, and $460,000 in annual operating costs.”
Maybe there is a time to subsidize a rich corporation’s pursuit of profit. If money were all that was at stake, maybe such an arrangement could be considered a good deal.
It gets worse
Wellington Water Watchers also has serious concerns about Nestlés proposed expansion of its Ontario Water Taking operations.
“Nestlé has issued a letter of intent to purchase a third well in Wellington County – the Middlebrook well, for an additional 1.6 million litres per day (300 gallons per minute). If Nestlé’s permit is approved for 1.6 million litres of water per day, the corporation will pay $3.71 per million litres (or $5.93 per day).
“100% of the water captured under this permit would be removed at the source and also be trucked 24/7 to Aberfoyle. A 100% consumptive permit is a permit where every drop of water that is pumped, or in this case captured as this is upwelling artesian water, is removed from the local watershed and never returned. The Middlebrook well will be similar to Nestle’s Hillsburgh well, where the water is transported by bulk tanker truck to the Aberfoyle packaging facility.”
Yet Nestlé confidently expects “that a new permit to take water will be issued to Nestlé Waters Canada by Ontario Ministry of Environment” for the Middlebrook site.
We can get an idea of the scope of the problem by looking at the province’s interactive Map: Permits to take water. Seeing the water-taking locations linked to active permits across Ontario is an eye-opener. Ontario may be water-rich just now, but water is a finite resource. Every bottle of water shipped out of Ontario is another bottle of water that won’t make it back to our aquifers.
“We will be requesting no more than a two year permit in Aberfoyle in order to assist a phase out of this permit and will also will be requesting no new well at Middlebrook.
“Our technical advisor, Dr. Hugh Whiteley has observed that the most recent Annual Report showed that the average water level in the Middle Gasport aquifer that supplies the Nestlé production well has declined about 1.5 m from 2011 to 2015 while Nestlé’s water taking increased 33 % over the same period. This decline in water level is suggestive of a disturbance of the equilibrium between aquifer recharge and water discharge from the aquifer.”
The WWW petition asking Ontario: Deny Nestlé Water-Taking Permit in Aberfoyle is nearing 100,000 signatures.
Guelph City Councillor James Gordon will be bringing a motion to get city to advise the province not to renew Nestlé’s expired water taking permit in Aberfoyle. If you support Councillor James Gordon’s proposed motion regarding Nestlé’s permit to take water, you can come out to the Council meeting at 6:30 at Guelph City Hall (map) on September 26th, 2016.
“The motion comes before a meeting of City Council’s planning meeting but won’t be debated until council’s regular meeting on Sept. 26.
“Gordon’s motion reads:
“That Council, with support from Intergovernmental Relations, Policy and Open Government staff, submit comments through the Ontario Environmental Registry process in relation to the recent Nestlé Water permit to take water and express 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.”
“It asks that council send a letter by the Sept. 30 deadline.”
To add punctuation to the proceeding, a community gathering is being organized for Monday, Sept 26, around 5 – 6 pm, outside City Hall in support of to support James Gordon’s motion to honour and protect our watershed.
Green Party of Ontario
Better stewardship of Ontario’s resources, including Water Taking has long been of concern for the Green Party of Ontario. That’s why the GPO has set up it’s own email writing tool to help Ontario residents make our feelings known to the Hon. Glen Murray, Ontario’s Environment Minister. You can use the letter provided edit it to better reflect your thoughts on the issue. Either way, it has been a long, hot summer filled with drought and water restrictions. Even if we can’t get to Guelph, we can speak up about our water supply.
GPO Leader Mike Schreiner writes:
“In the small community of Aberfoyle just outside of Guelph, Nestlé is taking millions of litres of water to bottle, ship to other places and then sell back to us.
“Worse yet, we are subsidizing Nestlé’s water taking. The Liberals set the water taking fee so low that it does not even cover the cost of administering the program.
“Nestlé pays only $9.27 for the amount of water it would take to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool. You read that right. Nine dollars and twenty-seven cents. That’s just $3.71 per million litres.
“Let’s tell the Minister of Environment to stop giving away our water.
“Please take one minute to
It’s time to #SayNoToNestle
Footnote: I pay a $1.71 per cubic metre of water in Woolwich. The ground water is unsafe to drink here since pollution from a local chemical company rendered the water in our local aquifer undrinkable, so we pay a premium to pipe in water from Waterloo.Ref
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