Nestlé's water taking 'has no effect' on Guelph, mayor says

Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie addressed the contentious issue of Nestlé taking water from a well in Aberfoyle in a recent blog post. He says the company's business "has no effect on the City of Guelph’s current water supply.”

Aberfoyle well is 'downstream' from Guelph, Mayor Cam Guthrie writes in blog post

Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie has written a blog post after receiving questions from residents about Nestlé and low water levels in the city. In it, the mayor writes, "At present, the Nestlé water taking has no effect on the City of Guelph’s current water supply." (CBC File Photo)

Guelph's mayor says Nestlé's permit to take water in Aberfoyle "has no effect on the City of Guelph's current water supply."

In a blog post, Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie said he has received a lot of questions about Nestlé and the effect the bottled-water company's business has on water availability in the city.

He wrote that the well Nestlé takes its water from in Aberfoyle is part of the Mill Creek subwatershed, "which is 'downstream' from the Speed River and Eramosa River subwatersheds – the source of the city's water."

While all three subwatersheds are part of the Grand River watershed, "the environmental effects from water taking activities in the Mill Creek subwatershed don't extend to the Speed and Eramosa sub-watersheds. At present, the Nestlé water taking has no effect on the City of Guelph's current water supply," Guthrie wrote in the post, which went up on his blog Monday.

City wants takers to 'exercise care'

Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie. (City of Guelph)
Guthrie wrote the city cannot tell Nestlé to stop taking water because it's not a decision Guelph council can make, it's a provincial matter handled by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.

"City staff and residents will have an opportunity to comment on Nestlé's upcoming application to take water when it is posted on the Ontario Environmental Registry," Guthrie wrote.

"Although Nestlé's water taking doesn't impact the city's municipal groundwater supply directly, the city supports that all local takers of this important resource exercise care and stewardship in their takings."

Guthrie's office said the mayor was on vacation Wednesday until after the long weekend and was unavailable to comment on the blog post.

Province to review permits

Nestlé has come under fire from critics in recent weeks after the company's permit to take water, which expired July 31, was allowed to continue until a renewal application was reviewed.

Critics have said the amount Nestle pays for water is far too low.

Nestlé Waters Canada has said it is committed to "a continued engagement with the community" while it waits for that renewal review.

"The continuation of this permit allows for thorough public consultation on the Ontario Environmental Registry, and provides (the ministry) time to conduct, review and report on the public commentary before a decision on the permit renewal application is made," the company said in a statement.

Last week, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced the government will review how much bottled water companies pay to bottle the resource.

"There's the issue of the quantity of water that's taken, there's the issue of the cost of that water," Wynne said.

"Also, there's an issue around the timing. As we all know, it's been a dry summer and so I think we need to look at what are the right triggers in place in terms of quantities that are allowable given the conditions."

No fence around groundwater

The Aberfoyle well Nestlé uses could become a Guelph concern in the near future, Mike Nagy, chair of Wellington Water Watchers, told CBC News in an email.

The Aberfoyle area could become part of Guelph under the Places to Grow legislation and Nagy said the city could be asked by the province to extend its boundaries south.

"We don't look at groundwater, and neither does the province, as something that has a fence around it. It moves throughout and there are many connectivities that are not totally understood," Nagy said.
The province has said it will review how much bottled water companies pay to take water. (CBC)

"We feel that it is everyone's responsibility to protect and conserve water and to educate others about how to best do this, something that the City of Guelph water conservation staff has done an exceptional job at over the past 20 years especially."

Nagy said having a company like Nestlé remove millions of litres of water a day from wells in Aberfoyle and Hillsburgh "should be a concern to everyone."


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