Wellington Water Watchers Calls on More Stringent Laws for Water Taking Permits
Water for Life, Not for Profit
For immediate release
August 29, 2016
Guelph-Wellington – On the heels of unprecedented public and media attention to the ongoing issue of consumptive water taking in Wellington County, the Wellington Water Watchers in partnership with Saveourwater.ca are pleased to announce that we have submitted a detailed proposal for how Ontario’s Permit-To-Take-Water (PTTW) review process could be strengthened.
Known as an “Application for Review (AFR)”, this document, which has been in development for months, focuses on suggestions for new PTTW rules pertaining to consumptive water takings and specifically ones that are for the purposes of water bottling.
As Premier Kathleen Wynne has herself pointed out, the packaging and wholesale removal of water from Ontario’s aquifers was not a reality that was anticipated when the PTTW process was originally developed:
“Thirty years ago, we wouldn’t have envisioned an industry that took water and put it in plastic bottles so that people could carry it around,” Wynne said. “I mean, we didn’t drink water from plastic bottles 30 years ago. We turned on the tap and the fact is our tap water in Ontario is among the best in the world.”
“We agree that awarding any new permits to Nestlé or other similar water extractors under the current permitting rules would be not only inappropriate but also irresponsible,” stated Mike Nagy, Board Chair of Wellington Water Watchers. “We have been calling for changes to close this loophole since 2007.”
The costs of administering PTTW’s has far exceeded the costs recuperated by the levies attached to the permits. Remedying this is one of the concerned citizens’ demands, but there are more substantive changes to the PTTW process being requested in the Wellington Water Watchers/Saveourwater.ca’s AFR. In particular, the groups identify a need for new provisions in law, regulation, and/or policy that enhance Ontario’s water management system in order to improve climate resiliency.
“It is true that, at a provincial level the permitting system does not charge enough to cover the administrative costs of issuing permits – the well publicized $3.71/million litres we have all been hearing so much about lately,” said Dr. Robert Case of the WWW board. “But this debate will NOT be resolved by simply increasing these levies. The conversation goes much deeper, touching the very fundamentals of what sustains life. We cannot simply attach a cost to this. No amount of money will replenish the water that is being extracted for the profits of shareholders of big corporations like Nestlé. No amount of money will keep water in the ground for our future needs, especially in the context of climate change.”
The WWW and Saveourwater.ca are demanding the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change stand up to its own Statement of Environmental Values.
There is a unique opportunity at hand for the MOECC to pause and make thoughtful policy changes that factor in climate change and safeguard our water security into the future. Wellington Water Watchers and Saveourwater.ca have submitted their suggestions and are demanding meaningful consultation in this process. This process, they say, should be public and transparent.
The Wellington Water Watchers/Saveourwater.ca’s recommendations include prioritizing water usage based on the MOECC’s Statement of Environmental Values, which would not allow for 100% consumptive water taking permits or heavily waste-producing activities such as water bottling. The groups’ proposals also call for greater accountability around policy and regulation changes related to water-taking permits. A recent policy change the organizations would like revoked, for example, allows for continued water extraction by companies after their permit has expired, when renewal decisions have been delayed, without any public consultation or any consideration of drought or other environmental changes.
Once the AFR has been officially logged in by The Province, it will be made available to the public. In the meantime both groups say they are available for general discussion regarding their AFR’s intent.
About Wellington Water Watchers Founded in 2007, Wellington Water Watchers (WWW) is a volunteer-run, non-profit organization based in Guelph, Ontario. Committed to the protection of water resources and public education, WWW works to affect local water policy and protect water sources. WWW also sponsors and supports guest speakers, debates, and are active at bottled-water free community events.
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