The provincial government has confirmed that as of August 1, companies that bottle and sell water in Ontario will pay more to take water.
The fee will go from just $3.71 for every million litres of groundwater taken to $503.71. Companies that take more than 50,000 litres of water a day must apply for a permit to take water.
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The higher fee will go to recover costs associated with managing the industry, the province said in a release Thursday.
The money collected will also go towards scientific research on environmental impacts and creating better data analysis on groundwater taken for water bottling.
"This increased fee, along with the other measures we've taken, will help increase groundwater protection and scientific understanding of how to best manage this vital resource," Minister of Environment and Climate Change Glen Murray said in a release.
A moratorium has been placed on new or expanding water takings by bottling companies and will remain in effect until Jan. 1, 2019.
Permits need to be phased out
Mike Nagy of Wellington Water Watchers said they want to see the ministry recover fees, but the move still does not go far enough.
"Our position remains the same, that OK, it's all great to have some more monitoring and groundwater science, but our position is clear that we still need these consumptive commoditized permits to be phased out," Nagy told CBC News.
"In the end, we're calling for the phase out of these permits."
Mark Calzavara, regional organizer for Ontario, Quebec and Nunavut for The Council of Canadians, echoed Nagy's sentiments.
"It is good that the province is doing cost recovery with the new charges but the people of Ontario overwhelmingly want to see bottled water phased out," he said. "Charging roughly one penny per case of bottled water will do nothing to protect vulnerable groundwater."
Fee should be for all commercial users
Nestlé Waters Canada president Debbie Moore issued a statement Thursday afternoon saying the company "will accept the water pricing."
"Unfortunately, it is not being applied in a fair and equitable manner across all groundwater permit holders," the statement said. "All commercial groundwater users should be encouraged to pay their fair share for water they withdraw."
Moore noted Nestlé's Aberfoyle plant, south of Guelph, does not have any municipal water and so they are being charged for the water they bottle as well as the water they use in the facility's operations, "therefore further increasing the overall cost of doing business in Ontario."
Moore said the company will continue to work with industry partners, the government and the public "to protect and improve our water systems while creating the conditions for shared and sustainable prosperity."