Province needs water management program to protect resource, says city of Guelph
'We were heard, the province is responding,' Coun. James Gordon says
The Ontario government needs to be vigilant when it comes to reviewing water taking permits and should prevent the misuse of water, Guelph city council decided in approving comments that will now be sent to the province.
Council unanimously approved eight staff recommendations Monday night.
"I was very pleased that the staff, I think, captured what the will of the community was," Coun. James Gordon told The Morning Edition host Craig Norris Wednesday. "There is a hope in the community that this will have a direct effect."
- Why Nestlé's Aberfoyle well matters so much to Guelph, Ont., residents
- Nestle's water taking permit in Aberfoyle under review by Ontario's Ministry of Environment
- Township of Centre Wellington tried to buy Elora well now owned by Nestlé
One of the recommendations council is making asks the province to develop an evidence and principle-based comprehensive water management program.
Original motion withdrawn
Gordon initially proposed a motion that would ask the province to stop Nestlé from taking water in Aberfoyle.
That motion, which was amended at the Sept. 26 meeting, was withdrawn Monday night.
But although Monday's results are not the ones Gordon had initially proposed, he said people are pleased because they know their voices have been heard.
"We were heard, the province is responding," Gordon said, pointing to a number of protests and rallies in regards to people's concerns with water bottling.
Issue important to Guelph
The issue "looms just outside our city limits," as Nestlé has a water bottling plant just outside the city in Aberfoyle. Nestlé applied to renew a permit for its Aberfoyle facility. The permit to take water expired July 31, but the renewal has yet to be posted on the provincial government's website for comment.
- A rare look inside Nestlé's Aberfoyle water bottling plant
- Ontario water isn't being priced fairly, says Environment Minister Glen Murray
- Nestlé Waters welcomes debate in Guelph over water taking
Nestlé is allowed to continue taking water under that expired permit until the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change makes a decision to renew or change it.
The permit has become a flashpoint in a battle between environmentalists, community leaders and corporate interests, particularly after it was revealed Ontario only charges bottled water companies $3.71 per million litres of water.
Premier Kathleen Wynne has asked the province's environment minister to review permit conditions for all bottlers of water.
Nestlé has said it also wants to protect the resource.
'Our voice matters'
Gordon hopes the province will take the council's stance on the issue into consideration as it reviews water taking permit regulations.
"[The province knows] that their current water taking regulations do not reflect what is happening right now, with our growth projections and with drought, so all that we can hope for as a city is that the province will listen to what we are recommending to them and that will show up in the new regulations," he said.
The recommendations approved Monday night will now be forwarded to the province. But Gordon said they will need to go through the process again once the province posts Nestlé's permit to take water at the Aberfoyle plant for comment.
And when it does, he has no doubt residents will be there to give their opinion.
"Guelph, I think, has shown leadership around environment, around making sure that corporate interests don't come before community interests and it became a bit of a symbol for us," he said. "I think there's a general feeling in the community that, 'OK, we can do something with this. Our voice matters.'"