Nestlé test of Elora well gains limited support from critics

Advocacy group Save Our Water supports Nestlé's application for a pump test of a well in Elora so it can gather information, but is worried the company would increase how much water it might take in the future.

Advocates say taking water could reduce aquifer, but current data is a 'black hole.'

Residents of Elora are concerned about Nestlé Water Canada's plan to pump water from a nearby aquifer to satisfy Canadian consumer demand for bottled water. (CBC)

A group of citizens is concerned by a Nestlé Waters Canada plan to pump 1.6 million litres of water daily out of a well in Elora.

And part of the problem is that there's no thorough federal or provincial data about how much water there actually is in the region's aquifer. 

"People are very concerned because in our area, there's only municipal water ... in Elora and Fergus," Libby Carlaw from the advocacy group Save Our Water told host Craig Norris on The Morning Edition on Thursday.  

"There are a large number of residents in Salem plus in Puslinch Township and Woolwich Township that have private wells," she added. Farmers and homeowners rely on wells and are afraid their water levels will drop if Nestlé is allowed to pump water out of what is commonly called the Middlebrook well, Carlaw said.

A petition was started on last year telling Nestlé to "stay out" of Elora.

Nestlésubmitted a pump test application to the Ministry of the Environment in July.

Andreanne Simard, a hydrologist and a water resource manager for Nestlé Waters Canada, said the company hasn't purchased the property where the well is located and it is waiting to see the results of the pump test.

Future growth

Carlaw said even though this area is famous for water landmarks, such as bridges and large rivers, "We're not a water rich area … We're very vulnerable to drought conditions."'

Simard said it is unclear when or if the ministry will approve the pump test. The test itself would occur over a two-year period.

Andreanne Simard is a hydrologist and a water resource manager for Nestlé Waters Canada. (CBC)

The well has been for sale for a few years, Simard told CBC News, and Nestlé would like to use it when the Aberfoyle plant needs to shut down for upgrades and maintenance, and also for potential future growth of the company.

But all that depends on the pump test.

"We simply want to investigate the source and understand how sustainable it is," Simard said.

"We want to ensure we're not adversely impacting any of the neighbouring wells or surface water. Obviously it's a priority for us as a company. We want to investigate the well, to understand its sustainability to make sure that the water is available forever."

Supports test

Carlaw says her group is not opposed to the pump test. In fact, they welcome it.

"We want to see the results because there's actually very little information about this aquifer. If you check different government maps on the aquifer, either provincially or federally, it's kind of like there's a whole information blank in our area," she said. "It's kind of a black hole of data about what the size of the potential aquifer is, how far it extends, even the amounts of water that may be found there."

While the pump test won't answer all of those questions, she said it is a start.

It's kind of a black hole of data...even the amounts of water that may be found there.- Libby Carlaw, Save Our Water

But if the pump test shows Nestlé could move ahead with purchasing and pumping from the well, Carlaw said that's when her group will step up their campaign against using the water.

"Once that water taking starts we're very concerned that, basically, it will only increase over time," she said.

'Ensure there are no negative impacts'

Since July, Nestlé's Simard has been hosting weekly office hours to connect with local residents. She said a handful of people stop by each week to ask questions and chat about the project, which would still be a few years ago if it goes forward.

"I'm getting to know the community and that was our intent. We want to understand their concerns and try to address them," Simard said.

Simard, who lives in Puslinch Township and relies on a well for water, says she understands the concerns of local residents.

"My primary role with this company is to ensure there are no negative impacts on this new source we're looking at. I'm here to make sure that we learn the most we can about this source," she said. "The more data we have, the better we are."

For more on this story, listen to Nestlé Waters Canada spokeswoman Andreanne Simard on CBC Kitchener-Waterloo's The Morning Edition Monday Feb. 29.


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