In Ontario, bottled water companies are making a fortune by extracting freshwater for a miniscule cost and selling it back to consumers in plastic. These companies pay a much lower rate for water than the general public: for every million litres of Ontario’s freshwater they take, they pay only $3.71. A Toronto resident would pay $3,836* for the same amount of municipal tap water. Companies then bottle this public good in plastic and sell it back to Ontarians for 270,000 times the cost paid to extract it.
Time for this to change
In our report, Turning the Plastic Tide, we call on the province to end this subsidy to commercial water takers, charge bottling companies the real costs for the water they take, and use the fees to cover the costs of the province’s underfunded water conservation and protection programs.
And aside from increasing the fees, it’s time to take a look at how we administer the Permit to Take Water program for water bottlers. Last weekend, activists participated in a 12k march to protest Nestlé Water Canada’s purchase of a municipal well in Elora, Ontario and its request for a ten-year renewal of its permit to take water in Aberfoyle, Ontario. An online petition opposing the Nestlé Aberfoyle permit renewal request now has nearly 70,000 signatures.
Ontario should live up to its commitment to value water
According to the United Nations, water scarcity will be one of the greatest challenges facing the human population in the 21st century. Ontario has experienced some of its driest conditions ever on record over the past fifteen years. And with only one per cent of the water in the Great Lakes renewed each year, we need to rethink how we value this precious resource. The price we charge large scale commercial water users like bottled water companies is a place to start.
In 2007, the Ontario government promised to charge companies that bottle large amounts of water from the Great Lakes basin for the water they take. The revenues raised from the fees were intended to cover the costs of managing the province’s water resources. So far, the province has only carried out the first phase of this promise and the current revenues fall far short of what’s needed to fund Ontario’s water quantity programs.
It’s time that water bottling companies pay more to cover the real costs of protecting and managing Ontario’s water. Increased water-taking charges would ensure that those who benefit from taking water assume greater responsibility for supporting the programs that protect and sustain those water supplies. Ontario should end this corporate giveaway, charge more for large scale water takings, and use the funds, as promised, to conserve the drinking water sources on which so many Ontarians rely.
Water is a precious, public good that should be cherished and valued for what it’s worth. To learn more about this issue, read our report, Turning the Plastic Tide. And if you’d like to protect the Great Lakes from a related threat – plastic pollution caused by single use plastic bottles –sign our petition to put a price on plastic.
*Calculation based on TO municipal water rate info: http://www1.toronto.ca/wps/portal/contentonly?vgnextoid=a916ff0e43db1410VgnVCM10000071d60f89RCRD