Toronto, ON – We applaud Ontario’s Acting Environmental Commissioner Ellen Schwartzel for highlighting the ridiculously low price paid for taking water in Ontario and the resulting lack of resources to protect freshwater in the province.
In Ontario, large volume water takers, such as Nestlé, pay only $3.71 to take a million litres of water. Meanwhile, they sell bottled water for over $1 per litre, a mark up of over 250,000 times.
Over 8 years ago, the Ontario government promised to place a reasonable fee on companies that bottle large amounts of water taken from the Great Lakes basin. The fee we have today is the result of that promise, but at $3.71 per million litres, it’s woefully short of what’s needed. The fee only covers a fraction of the costs of provincial programs in place to manage water quantity, while ecosystems are increasingly at risk from low-water levels and communities are left to worry about the sustainability of their water supplies.
Meanwhile, a host of other issues including plastic pollution, climate change, invasive species and algae blooms pose ever greater threats to our freshwater. As the commissioner said, “we can no longer take our province’s water supplies for granted.”
To implement ambitious and landmark laws, like the Great Lakes Protection Act, funding is required for data collection and monitoring of surface water quantity and quality and for programs that decrease nutrient pollution and preserve vital freshwater habitats. According to the report, the $9.3 million annually Ontario has budgeted is “unlikely [to] be enough” for action to meet commitments under the Canada Ontario Agreement.
It’s time to increase the charges paid by large volume water takers and to begin a larger conversation about the resources needed to protect Ontario’s water quantity and quality. Ontario’s lakes and rivers contain one-fifth of the world’s freshwater, but this fortune is also a serious responsibility that should be taken more seriously to ensure we have freshwater for now and for future generations.
About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (www.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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