British Columbia·Q&A

Bottled water industry calls petition against Nestlé an 'exaggeration'

The Canadian Bottled Water Association has said that the criticism they are facing for certain companies using groundwater in B.C. is unwarranted. The executive director of the association, Elizabeth Griswold spoke to the Early Edition's Rick Cluff on the issue.

Association warns that decreasing bottled water will lead to greater plastic waste

The Canadian Bottled Water Association says the amount of water it takes from B.C. has been greatly exaggerated by critics. (Getty Images)

The Canadian Bottled Water Association has hit back against a petition criticizing the rates paid by Nestlé to bottle B.C. groundwater.

The online petition has gained over 225,000 signatures, prompting Premier Christy Clark to promise a review of the rates paid by industry for groundwater.

But according to Elizabeth Griswold, the executive director of the Canadian Bottled Water Association, the document has exaggerated the amount of groundwater private bottling organizations use across Canada.

Griswold spoke with The Early Edition's host Rick Cluff about her concerns with how the bottled water industry is being viewed in light of recent drought conditions across B.C.

How much groundwater is actually extracted by bottled water companies from B.C.?

This is something that the petition really exaggerated in their comments. The water bottle industry takes what is equal to 0.01 per cent of the groundwater in British Columbia. It's literally a drop in the bucket.

A good way to put this in perspective is that what the industry uses through the annual year, is equal to what nine golf courses use during their season; there are over 300 golf courses in B.C.

We really are one of the smallest users [of groundwater].

Can you not see why British Columbians feel that precious water is practically being given away?

I can understand the emotional attachment to water, we all have it. What we would like to bring to their attention is 100 per cent of the water in that bottle is used for human consumption — you don't water your lawn with bottled water. It's for a healthy beverage that hydrates your body.

What is your reaction to the B.C. government now agreeing to review pricing for bottled water companies?

We do agree that the fee should be reviewed by government. What we do also believe strongly is that the best timing for the review would be a year following its implementation.

This way we can ensure that the fees collected by everybody actually cover the cost of implementing the act.

In your opinion, what would be considered a fair rate for groundwater extraction?

We believe that all commercial water users should pay their fair share for the use of the resource. As required by the [Water Sustainability] Act, the fee should cover administration, management and enforcement, mapping the water system, and establish a capital reserve, and maintenance.

There are those who would argue that for the most part, we don't need bottled water. After all, our tap water is perfectly good to drink, and eliminating bottled water would mean there will be fewer plastic bottles in landfills. We also won't need trucks to transport them around. What's your response to that?

Actually the opposite would happen if bottled water didn't exist. The majority of the people drinking bottled water do so in the place of other unhealthy, high-calorie, high-sugar beverages.

You wouldn't be decreasing the amount of plastic, you would actually be increasing it because the other beverages are much heavier plastic.

Despite opposition, bottled water is clearly still being sold everywhere. What is driving that demand?

People are looking to have a healthier beverage. They are replacing their consumption of other bottled beverages with bottled water.

My hope is that people actually look for the facts instead of just buying into this type of information that is presented in the petition.

This interview was condensed and edited. To hear the full interview, click the audio labelled: Water bottle industry says amount of groundwater taken in B.C. is 'literally a drop in the bucket.'


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