New Water Act may kill proposed bottled-water business

An entrepreneur who hoped to launch a bottled-water business on P.E.I. says the draft Water Act, if passed, would bring the project to an end.

'Nobody seems to understand and listen to the science'

The province's draft Water Act increased fines for individuals and corporations that damage waterways, a ban on water exports and frequent reporting on the state of the province's water. (CBC)

An entrepreneur who hoped to launch a bottled-water business on P.E.I. says the proposed Water Act, if passed, would bring the project to an end.

"If it continues like that [the business] doesn't exist. I mean, we can't survive with just offering bottled water on the Island," said James Wood, president of Pure Island Waters Ltd.

The company had planned to bottle water from wells in Brookvale P.E.I. for retail sale in Atlantic Canada.

A preliminary draft of the Water Act, released to the public Thursday, includes a provision to ban the export of water from P.E.I. except for "humanitarian purposes, and or the ordinary carrying of water necessary for travel."

Wood told CBC News the government has responded to "political pressure."

"We heard loud and clear from Islanders," said Robert Mitchell, Minister of Communities, Land and Environment. (CBC)

"Even at our full intended capacity, we would be using less than half the water that even a golf course would use," said Wood. "Nobody seems to understand and listen to the science. It's all emotional." 

Wood referenced the growing beer and cruise ship industries as water users that, in his opinion, could also be affected by the export rule.

P.E.I.'s environment minister told CBC News the draft legislation reflects the views of residents. The release of the draft legislation followed a series of public consultations.

"It was a free-for-all," said Brad Trivers, Progressive Conservative environment critic. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

"We heard loud and clear from Islanders," said Robert Mitchell. "They're very passionate about our water supply. They want to see that preserved so to not allow exportation of P.E.I.'s water."

MLAs in other parties agree.

"Right now it's a bit of a free-for-all out there," said Brad Trivers, Progressive Conservation environment critic. "Really there were no rules around [exporting bottling water] and we were thankful the minister listened."

"I'm glad to see clarification," said Peter Bevan-Baker, Green Party leader. "It's nice to have that written in the legislation and to know that water bottling plants with business plans to export will not be allowed to happen here."

Wood told CBC News he plans to write to the department as part of the ongoing consultations, but says he won't fight it forever.   

"I'm not gonna sit there and tilt at a windmill ... I think that it creates jobs. It does not affect our water in any way ... and so I'm confused by it," said Wood. "The money we've invested, it's not been huge, but it's just money that's down the drain."