Toronto, ON – We applaud the Ontario government for launching a process toward protecting Ontario’s groundwater and for putting the needs of communities above the profits of water bottlers.

The public has spoken up about the need for action to protect drinking water supplies from water bottlers, and it is time for change. Groundwater is a precious resource, and it must be managed sustainably. Climate change and population growth mean that Ontario’s water is going to be under increasing stress in the years ahead. This problem will only get worse unless something is done now.

This review must result in:

  • A science-based approach to selling water where community, agricultural and ecosystem needs are prioritized over water bottlers;
  • Increases in water taking fees for water bottlers and dedication of the fees to water conservation;
  • A new deposit return program to address the one billion plastic bottles that end up in landfills and our streets and rivers every year.

The moratorium on new facilities must apply to the Middlebrook well, where Nestlé recently outbid a municipality that was trying to secure a sustainable source of drinking water. And the new rules should apply to Nestlé’s Aberfoyle permit, which is up for renewal.

The requirements for greater transparency and monitoring of water use are steps in the right direction, but they can’t be left in the hands of companies that are extracting public water. Our government must be in charge of ensuring the groundwater is protected, and ensuring communities’ access to clean drinking water is guaranteed.

We look forward to the discussion on the low fees charged to water bottlers. The $3.71 per million litres currently paid by water bottling companies is laughable. The rates need to be raised, and we need to ensure that the money collected is used to help protect water. Ideally, fees will be raised high enough to encourage people to drink tap water instead, given that most Ontarians have access to some of the cleanest and safest tap water in the world.

The government is right to single out water bottlers – and to take action to protect water. But they also need to address the plague of plastic garbage created by bottled water. Over a billion plastic bottles end up in landfills or the environment each year in Ontario. It’s time to start a deposit return program, like we have for beer and wine bottles, and increase the recycling rates.

About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is Canada’s most effective environmental action organization. We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all.

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For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact:

Jen Mayville, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 228; 905-330-0172 (cell); jmayville@environmentaldefence.ca.