This first week after Labour Day has seen an uptick in interest in our local water matters. People are realizing, not just in Centre Wellington and Aberfoyle that long term water taking has consequences not only for those around the wells but on the environment too. One of the early understandings we reached as a group and what helped form the opposition to these permits was that it was not just a not in my backyard problem.
These water takings are part of a global pattern of water mining involving Big Water, Big Money, Big Government and Big Issues. What is happening here in Wellington with the Nestle Triangle of Aberfoyle, Hillsburgh and Elora is yet another example of what is happening in Hope, BC, Fryeburg MA, Cascade Locks OR, California, Arizona, and on and on. Small rural and city communities are targeted where there is weak legislation and planning challenges where water sources can be exploited by opportunistic companies. Nestle and other bottling companies (Nestle is not the only one: Coke, Pepsi, Danone etc) are using their buying power and expertise all over Canada, North America, indeed the world to collect aquifers and areas where access to water can be found. It is business. However water is a substance like air where humanity and the creatures of the earth cannot survive without it. That places a particular value that cannot be assigned a commodity like minerals, foodstuffs, manufactured goods.
We can talk about the cost differences paid by these companies versus residences accessing water services but what is key is that the indignation about these differences needs to draw attention to the fact that water is not a renewable resource. Groundwater recharge is agonizingly slow. Practically speaking in terms of a human lifetime when it is gone it is gone. The price differences attract peoples attention and anger but the real question is how do you value a water source and its contents in a way that takes into account that people and communities cannot live without it. Cannot grow without it. Water is the basic sustainer of life in its most basic forms and for that reason, money cannot be the sole decider of its value.
Below are letters to the editor this week in the Wellington advertiser. If you check our social media feeds you will see some of the water issues that were covered by water allies this week. We will be continuing the discussion in Waterblogged in the days, weeks and months to come.
Not for sale
Money talks, but what does it say?
You report that our Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Premier Kathleen Wynne are considering making Nestlé pay a higher (market?) price for our local water.
It might sound fair, but it will muddy the waters in many ways!
It is unlikely to rattle the Nestlé economy. If this were the solution, we could all congratulate the government of Ontario for finding a simple escape solution, and for adding a little extra cash to its operating budget.
But it will do nothing to secure our water against drought conditions; little to reassure farmers that their irrigation systems will still flow. It will do nothing to prevent the use of our roads by water tanker traffic.
It will continue to promote the careless use of plastic bottles and the pollution they cause in our waterways and oceans. It will not reassure me that bottled water is “pure” - free of the chemicals associated with disposable clear plastic bottles.
“He who pays the piper calls the tune.” A higher price on water mining would give Nestlé a stronger claim on the available supply; while the more the government collects from Nestlé, the less willing it will be to enforce flow reductions when needed.
We are an expanding community (by government decree!).
Our water cannot be for sale at any price.
It is encouraging to see the increased interest in the debate about commercial water taking.
Unfortunately, common sense is missing from the debate. Our politicians are focusing on the money, as is the water bottling industry. Everyone seems to think paying a bit more will solve the problem or at least make the issue go away.
We have an election coming in 2018 and it would be great if there were no embarrassing issues to threaten the incumbent party’s hold on power.
For good measure, the politicians and water bottling industry are adding a bit of science. Hoping science will bring credibility to their discussion or else use as a shield to justify not taking a position on the subject.
In the end, it is all smoke and mirrors intended to distract the public and avoid looking at the long term. Our society has become too fixated on the here and now - to the detriment of future planning.
If common sense were to prevail, we would realize that if you take something away it is gone. Why are gravel pits called pits? Why are mines called mines and why does the water bottling industry avoid the term water mining? We would realize that water mining and thriving urban communities do not coexist next to each other. Eventually someone runs out of water.
Everyone is using the word sustainable but not in the right context. Sustainable means not using more than can be replaced. We are pumping water out of the ground faster than nature can replenish it through rainfall and its migration down into the water table.
Since 1997, we have experienced seven droughts. In 1999, some groundwater levels in the Grand River basin were at their lowest in 130 years. We are losing water.
It’s time our politicians and the water bottling industry were honest with us and told us the truth instead of profiting at our expense.
We have another Walkerton in the making, only this time it will not be about water quality, rather water quantity.
It is time we took responsibility for our action or inaction to hold our politicians and water bottling industry accountable for the mess they have made of our long-term water supply. Believe that together we can all make a difference and bring hope for the future.
Be part of the decision and sign the petition to protect Ontario’s water. It is not for sale or removal from nearby communities.
We were pleased to read that our local township council had attempted to purchase the Middlebrook property in an effort to protect against Nestle Waters purchasing it.
Unfortunately we know Nestle has moved ahead with the purchase.
As citizens the next question we need to ask is: can our government at this stage help turn this around?
In the past governments have expropriated properties (single and multiple properties) when the purchase is in the best in interest of the community, be it a road to better serve the community or to build an major infrastructure project that benefits all.
Is this not an avenue that our three levels of government representative should propose on behalf of our community?
Do you really believe that the present Ontario Liberal government has any interest in protecting our drinking water here in Wellington County?
They continue to sell our natural resources and government-owned assets (Hydro, LCBO, Highway 407) from under our feet without any mandate to do so.
Time to dig in and fight. Write your representatives. Let them know your concern and that you expect action.
Access to clean water is the right of every Canadian; a right that should not be extended to corporations.
Is premier Wynne on the same planet as the residents of Puslinch?
The citizens of Aberfoyle are concerned about the quantity of water being taken from the local aquifers, not the monetary revenue received for the water.
In her brilliant dissertation today, she tried to placate the local residents by stating that the water sold to Nestle was too cheap. Does she understand the priceless value of water?
Would someone please tell our premier that “You never miss the water ‘til the well runs dry.”