Moratorium on water bottling permits expires

·2 min read

Wellington County — The Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks announced last week that it has ended the moratorium on permits to take water for bottling.

The moratorium was put in place by the previous government and froze any new or increased ground water taking for the purpose of water bottling.

The moratorium was to give the province time to study ground water and water policy to determine the impact of water bottling on water resources.

The province says the review is complete and Ontarians can feel confident water resources in the province are protected.

“The Ontario government thoroughly reviewed the province’s water taking policies, programs and science tools and had an independent third-party review the findings on bottled water takings, which was completed by a panel of experts from Professional Geoscientists Ontario,” says Gary Wheeler, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks.

“The independent review validated our findings that water takings for bottling are managed sustainably in Ontario under the existing legislation, regulation and guidance and that bottled water takings are not impacting the sustainability of groundwater resources.”

The Professional Geoscientists of Ontario report can be found in the supporting materials of the province’s Environmental Registry posting number 019-1340.

At the same time the moratorium is revoked, changes the province made to the Water Resources Act in December come into effect, as well as other updates to the province’s water quantity management framework.

The province says these changes will give municipalities more direct input on allowing bottled water companies to withdraw new or increased amounts of groundwater in their communities and help make decisions in places where sustainability could be an issue and increase transparency.

These changes, says Wheeler, “will give host municipalities more direct input on allowing bottled water companies to withdraw new or increased amounts of groundwater in their communities. This proposal responds to the desire by local communities to have a say in determining whether water bottling companies can use groundwater in their area.”

This comes as Swiss food and beverage giant Nestlé announced it is selling its North American operations to private equity firm One Rock Capital in partnership with Metropoulos & Co. This will include the company’s infrastructure in Wellington County.

Water advocates are calling on the province to ensure Nestlé’s permits to take water for bottling are not passed on to the new owners.

“The proposed enhancements to Ontario’s water taking program will apply to all permitted water users, including water bottlers, and would come into effect at the same time that the bottled water moratorium ends on April 1, 2021,” says Wheeler.

Leah Gerber’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. The funding allows her to report on stories about the Grand River Watershed. Email lgerber@therecord.com

Leah Gerber, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Waterloo Region Record