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Ontario protects water with new proposed fee on bottlers

In the wake of climate change impacts, Ontario is beginning to take more stringent steps to ensure that fresh water resources are protected. The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change has proposed a new fee for water bottlers that use groundwater.

Water bottle companies such as Nestle pay $3.71 for one million litres of fresh groundwater. Yes, that’s just under four dollars for a million litres of water — a natural resource that is slowly dissipating. The Wednesday announcement will propose that these companies pay a mandatory minimum fee of $500 for one million litres, something that is being widely celebrated by environmentalists across the province. Though critics may consider the fee high, it would cover the costs of managing the groundwater taken by the water bottlers, as well as scientific research, policies and outreach to further protect the resource.

Other amendments that Ontario is proposing include new procedural and technical requirements to make water bottling more transparent in the public eye and to increase scientific requirements when testing the water. The proposed changes are open to public consultation until March 20, 2017 and is available on the Environmental Registry.

Ontario has been actively working towards protecting the fresh water resources in the province, finalizing a two-year moratorium on new or expanded permits for water bottlers to take fresh groundwater resources. The limitation on permits also changed from 10 years to five years. The proposal was approved on Dec. 16, 2016 after public consultations came to an end.

In the wake of climate change, fresh groundwater resources are becoming more valuable as water shortages could easily become a reality. After it was discovered earlier in 2016 that Nestle was taking more than one million litres of water a day with an expired permit, the government and its citizens began to seriously consider whether this was appropriate. This ultimately led to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change taking the threat of water shortages seriously and is proposing courageous and sweeping changes to how water bottling is currently managed in the province. Women’s Post will be following this issue with great interest.