Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner presented a petition in the Ontario Legislature today that asks for the Provincial government to take steps to protect Ontario’s water from exploitation by private businesses. There’s presently a moratorium for issuing new water taking permits in the province, but 3,500 signatories on the petition are asking Queen’s Park to do better.
“I believe the Province needs to manage our public drinking water, as a public trust, in the public interest,” said Schreiner Thursday morning in the media studio at the Legislature.
“It would be irresponsible to allow additional commercial water extraction in [Centre Wellington] given all of the demands on our water supply and the growing impact from climate change,” he added.
Schreiner was joined by the initiators of the petition, Save Our Water, which formed after Nestlé applied to take water from a well in Middlebrook in 2016. The company outbid the municipality of Centre Wellington, who were trying to secure the well for future community needs. Now residents are concerned that if the Province approves a permit to take 1.6 million litres per day from the Middlebrook well that it will have a dramatic effect on the availability of clean water in the surround area.
“Commercial, for-profit water interests cannot displace the needs of community residents,” said Jan Beveridge of Save Our Water.”Centre Wellington does not give its consent to new water bottling extraction and the Ford government must listen.”
“They know that [the moratorium] does not provide permanent protection to communities whose water is under threat because they’re in competition with commercial water bottling operations,” Schreiner said later in the Legislature. “There’s only so many straws you can put into an aquifer before it goes dry.”
Nestlé applied for the permit before the previous Liberal government put a moratorium on all new water-taking permits in 2017. The current government extended the moratorium late last year through to October 1, 2020.
Last December, Environment Minister Jeff Yurek said that the government is “taking time to complete our analysis of the water quantity review,” and that it will “continue to engage with the public, stakeholders and Indigenous communities for input on how we manage provincial water taking to ensure the safety of secure, reliable sources of water.”
At the same time, area communities are sweating the consequences if Nestle is allowed to have it’s water taking permit, and experts in the field are sounding alarms.
“Centre Wellington’s current water supply system does not have the ability to meet future demands,” said a report authored by engineering firm Matrix Solutions Inc. “Therefore, all consumptive water uses…within this area are considered significant drinking water quantity threats.”
Another engineering firm, AECOM, said last April that water taking at Middlebrook would see water levels in area wells be reduced by 2.5 to 3.5 metres, and that the expansion of water taking should “not be considered a feasible option.”
Centre Wellington is looking at a water supply deficit by 2041 when the populations for Fergus and Elora is expected to jump from 13,538 and 5,793 respectively to 31,630 and 13,060.
Schreiner’s own water protection legislation, the Paris Galt Moraine Conservation Act, is still working its way through committee after getting a unanimous vote in second reading last year.