Province plans to extend moratorium on water bottling permits until Oct. 1

TORONTO – Ontario is proposing to extend the province’s moratorium on new water bottling permits another nine months.

The proposed extension was posted on the Environment Registry of Ontario on Nov. 18.

The original two-year moratorium, established on Jan. 1, 2017, was extended by one year and is set to end on Jan. 1, 2020. The new proposal would extend the moratorium until Oct. 1.

Local advocacy group Save Our Water supports the extension.

“This is a positive step that demonstrates the cooperation between levels of government to ensure the protection and proper stewardship of water,” member Donna McCaw stated in an email.

“This stewardship is what Save Our Water is working toward and expecting from our various levels of government.”

The moratorium prohibits:

– new permits for water bottling facilities;

– existing water bottling facilities from taking more groundwater than authorized in existing permits; and

– new or amended permits to conduct pumping tests to determine if groundwater could be used as a source for bottling.

The moratorium does not apply to water bottling facilities that source water from municipal water systems.

Government officials say the extension will provide the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) time to complete its water quantity analysis and to consult the public and finalize changes to how the ministry manages water takings.

The proposal states “This way, we can be confident our programs, policies and science protect vital water resources while keeping Ontario open for business.

The proposal states, “Drought conditions in areas of southern and eastern Ontario in 2016, projected population and economic growth and the anticipated impacts of climate change have intensified concerns about water security in Ontario, particularly among communities that depend upon groundwater.

“These concerns prompted us to re-examine the current approach to managing water takings in the province, including the taking of groundwater for water bottling.”

McCaw said studies have shown Centre Wellington is in a precarious state when it comes to water.

“We now know from the Tier 3 Water Budgeting study that we are in a vulnerable area and one that is at significant risk for water quantity as the township is facing a water shortage by 2031,” stated McCaw in an email statement.

“This Tier 3 study funded by the province is not yet completed however.”

She added the province will now have time to consult and review science properly – and “It also allows the township to figure out how to manage a water shortfall.”

Officials with Nestlé Waters Canada, which has proposed water taking at an existing well on Middlebrook Road near Elora, also welcomed the extension of the moratorium.

“We have always agreed that new water bottling permits should be issued only when the science demonstrates a clear commitment to the health and sustainability of watersheds,” stated Nestlé Waters Canada president Adam Graves.

“Indeed, that is the standard we have and continue to uphold.”

Graves added, “As the government of Ontario takes this additional time to verify the extensive data and scientific evidence submitted already, we will work closely with our industry partners and ministry officials, regulators and stakeholders to ensure that all appropriate standards are not only met but surpassed.”

The moratorium regulation was implemented in the fall of 2016 to provide an opportunity to review the existing framework for managing water takings in Ontario, with a particular focus on groundwater takings by water bottling facilities.

Goals of the review were to:

– advance the understanding of water resources in the province, including how factors such as climate change and population growth may affect the sustainability of these resources; and

– evaluate existing rules and policies that govern water taking, with a particular focus on groundwater takings by water bottling facilities.

The ministry has completed its review and, based on the findings, is considering opportunities to update the existing water-taking framework to make it more resilient to managing current and anticipated water quantity challenges.

During the moratorium, existing water bottling operations, such as the Nestlé Waters wells in Hillsburgh and Aberfoyle, can continue operating under existing/previous permits.