Recently, the Township of Centre Wellington—a small,
growing municipality in Ontario—
lost a bid for rights to a well, and potential drinking water
supply for its residents. Surprisingly, it lost its bid for the
well to Nestle Waters Canada,
Canada's largest distributer of bottled water. Nestle does
appear to have plans to use the water in the immediate future, but
rather will rely upon it as a backup supply for its nearby plant in
Aberfoyle and so as to ensure "future business
Many questioned how a municipality could lose a bid for access
to a potential municipal water source to a private corporation.
Nestle had been eyeing the site for some time, and
had made a conditional offer to the vendor, Middlebrook Water
Company, back in 2015. When it discovered that another bidder had
appeared, Nestle waived its conditions and proceeded with the
The province of Ontario makes its water supply available
to many forms of industry—including the bottled water
industry—at negligible cost. The province reportedly charges
bottling companies $3.71 per one million litres of water that is
taken. Currently, Nestle is permitted to take up to 3.6 million
litres of water per day at its source in Aberfoyle, near
British Columbia only
recently started . In British Columbia, Nestle must now pay
$2.25 per one million litres of water, whereas it previously was
not required to pay anything. The decision to charge even this
nominal amount was only brought about as the province struggled
last year with drought and forest fires.
Concerns over the impacts of water extractions by bottling
companies has been heating up in recent years. In Ontario, the
Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change is facing
intense pressure to decline the renewal of Nestle's
recently expired permit to take water at its Aberfoyle
In California, Nestle has been battling a lawsuit
that seeks to challenge its authority to operate a water
pipeline located in the San Bernardino forest. As the state
grapples with record periods of sustained drought and wildfires,
many have become concerned that the company's yearly extraction
of tens of millions of gallons of water—for which it pays
$524 per year—is placing considerable pressure on local
ecosystems and operates at the expense of local users.
As contentious as these debates are becoming, we have a
seemingly unquenchable thirst for bottled water, which continues to
reap record revenues year after year. Some have estimated that
bottled water will soon outsell all
other non-alcoholic beverages (such as soft drinks) in the
Fresh water supplies are expected to become increasingly scarcer
as a result of climate change. Droughts and salinization of fresh
water supplies are expected to become more commonplace as a result
of coastal erosion and changes in weather patterns.
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It is relatively common knowledge that the government has a "duty to consult" aboriginal groups when undertaking actions or making decisions that could adversely affect aboriginal rights, aboriginal title and treaty rights.
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On April 5, 2017 the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change received her report from an expert panel of four, comprised of three lawyers with significant environmental and aboriginal law experience as well as a retired senior executive of a resource company.
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