Battle over Middlebrook Well not over by a long shot says Save Our Water

·3 min read

CENTRE WELLINGTON – Even though Nestlé may be leaving the area, water advocates are reminding the public the fight over the Middlebrook Well is not over because of new legislation and owners.

Save Our Water (SOW), a water advocacy group based out of Centre Wellington, held its first public update in over two years Thursday over Zoom to rally members and supporters to continue efforts in opposing water bottling operations.

Nestlé sold its North American operations, including the Middlebrook Well west of Elora, to two private equity firms for US$4.3 billion dollars early this month. They have rebranded the operation as BlueTriton Brands.

This came on the heels of new developments in water bottling legislation. The province lifted a years-long moratorium on permits for new water taking for bottling on April 1.

At the same time, new legislation allows municipalities to veto permits for those taking over 379,000 litres per day.

“A smaller amount of water is still exempt from it and it’s that smaller amount of water that we’re still concerned about,” said Jan Beveridge from SOW.

The concerns are felt even more so in Centre Wellington that has a fast growing population and an already uncertain future water supply.

Beveridge said a tier three study assessed Centre Wellington at a “significant risk level” for future water sources.

“They can predict water is available for our wells for up to 2031 and after that we just don’t know,” Beveridge said.

Beveridge explained the study predicts the area west of Elora as the source for future municipal water supply. The Middlebrook Well falls into this area which was coloured red on a map she presented.

“We need four new wells over the next two decades,” Beveridge said. “Extracting anything from this red area poses a risk to municipal water supply.”

Centre Wellington has also been mandated by the province to double in population by 2041.

“The province can’t have it both ways,” said Donna McCaw, SOW member. “They can’t target this area for rapid extensive growth and then permit large scale water extraction.”

Mayor Kelly Linton said nothing is changing from the township’s approach.

They will continue support for SOW, oppose hosting a commercial water bottling operation by any company and to advocate the province to take the legislation further.

“Especially when it comes to lowering the 379,000 litre per day threshold, we’d like a veto against any water taking for projects or water taking that is below that as well,” Linton said.

Presenters stressed the organization has made huge grounds in shaping legislation, highlighting this issue and possibly even driving Nestlé out of the continent.

However, McCaw said Centre Wellington water is still not safe being owned by two American companies.

“No company has made a penny taking groundwater at Middlebrook for the last six years,” McCaw said.

“Now BlueTrition needs to get that message that it will never make a penny here.”

Keegan Kozolanka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com