Nestle Outbids Drought-Stricken Town For Water Well

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CENTRE WELLINGTON, Ontario — A drought-stricken small town might have lost the well it needs for drinking water to a multinational corporation’s future bottled water plant.

Nestle beat out the Township of Centre Wellington, Ontario, in the bidding contest for a well.

The township wanted the well to keep its water “safe from commercial water taking,” township mayor Kelly Linton told the CBC this month.

Nestle wants to use the plant for “future business growth,” CBC reported. The company already is taking 3.6 million liters (950,000 gallons) of water a day in Aberfoyle, Ontario, where it bottles water. The well near the township – in Elora – will be used as a backup for the Aberfoyle plant and as a “supplemental well for future business growth,” Nestle said.

“We’re not a water rich area. … We’re very vulnerable to drought conditions,” activist and township supporter Libby Carlaw told the CBC.

Carlaw is afraid that Nestle will dry out an aquifer that supplies Wellington County outside Toronto.

“We are in a heavy growth mode,” Linton told the CBC. The township had made an offer on the well, but Nestle outbid the local government and dropped the conditions it had placed on its purchase.

Nestle is now facing a serious reaction to the Centre Wellington story.

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“When water taking is solely within the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, the only role we really have as a municipality is to comment to the ministry, and it issues all the permits,” Linton told the CBC. “So purchasing the well would automatically give us control, and that’s what we were looking for, control of our water source and not just the ability to comment.”

Canadians Fighting Nestle

A group called the Council of Canadians says it has collected more than 230,000 signatures on a petition demanding that Nestle pay more for the water it plans to take, Huffington Post Canada reported.

“In the middle of a severe drought in southern Ontario, bottled water giant Nestlé continues to extract four million liters (about one million gallons) of groundwater every day from an aquifer near Guelph,” a statement from the council reads. “Nestlé pays less than $15 per day for this precious resource and then ships it out of the community in hundreds of millions of single use plastic bottles for sale all over North America — at an astronomical mark up.”

Said Maude Barlow, chairwoman of the Council of Canadians, “The water crisis is at our door here in Canada. Groundwater resources are finite and currently taxed by droughts, climate change and over-extraction. At this pace, we will not have enough for our future needs. We must safeguard groundwater reserves for communities and future generations.”

The ministry cannot stop the sale of the well, which is a private transaction. It can only approve or not approve a permit to use it.

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