TORONTO – The province is considering a six-month extension to the current moratorium on water bottling permits.
On Aug. 28 the Ministry of Conservation and Parks proposed extending the moratorium on new or increased permits to take ground water for bottled water until April. 1, 2021.
Comments on the proposal, which can be found at ero.ontario.ca/notice/019-2319, must be submitted by Sept. 27.
The current moratorium began on Jan. 1, 2017 and was to be in place for two years. It was extended twice previously and was set to end on Oct. 1.
“This extension would give us time to thoroughly review and consider feedback received and further engage on how we can implement our proposed enhancements to Ontario’s water taking program,” the government stated on the proposal website.
Officials have also stated the government is “committed to protecting water resources in the province in a way that maintains the right balance between protecting our environment, while responsibly supporting a prosperous economy that creates jobs and opportunity for the people of Ontario.”
The only Wellington County site impacted by the moratorium is the Middlebrook well in Elora, which is owned by Nestlé Waters Canada but will move to Ice River Springs, if the sale of Nestle Pure Life bottled water is finalized.
The companies announced the sale on July 2. However, it was going through the regulatory review process at that time and was to be completed by the third quarter of this year.
Officials with both Nestlé and Ice River Springs did not respond to requests to clarify the status of the sale.
Centre Wellington Mayor Kelly Linton said the moratorium extension would be positive for the township.
“It’s good for Centre Wellington because it gives us just a little bit more time to put our implementation plans in place to look for areas to drill new wells and a couple of the other recommendations that came out of our Water Supply Master Plan,” said Linton.
However, he did say he wished the moratorium extension was longer.
“We asked for [it] to be extended to 2023 but we didn’t know whether the Ontario government was willing to do that,” Linton said.
“It doesn’t really change anything that we’re doing. We have our action plan in place to do what we need to do to safeguard our community’s water long into the future.
“So, we’ll continue to go through that process.”
Earlier this year the province released information on proposed enhancements to Ontario’s water taking program that include:
– requiring water bottling companies to have the support of host municipalities for new and increasing bottled water takings, with an exemption for small businesses;
– establishing priorities of water use in the province that can guide water taking decisions;
– assessing and managing multiple water takings together in areas of the province where water sustainability is a concern; and
– making water taking data available to the public.
The commenting period for the proposed enhancements closed on Aug. 2.
“We support an amendment to the Ontario Water Resources Act that would require water bottlers to have support of a host municipality when applying for a new permit to take water,” stated Jan Beverage, of local group Save Our Water, in a press release.
“It is right that the local municipality has a voice in the decision.”
Save Our Water is also pleased with the proposed moratorium extension.
“It reflects the level of concern and interest in the regulations that will be managing groundwater in Ontario,” stated Brent Coleman in the press release.
Nestle Waters Canada and Ice River Springs did not respond to requests for comment by press time.