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Nestlé could potentially threaten Guelph's future water needs: staff report

'We've been saying that for 10 years' says Wellington Water Watchers of report that goes to council at Nov. 7 meeting on water taking
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A new technical report from city staff says Guelph's future water needs could be threatened by Nestlé Waters Canada's Aberfoyle water taking operations.

The report, to be summarized at Guelph City Council's special meeting Nov. 7 on the water taking issue, says that under an extreme scenario Nestlé Waters Aberfoyle operation could pose as a "significant drinking water threat" to Guelph and Eramosa Township.

While the exact details of Nestlé's latest water taking permit application for its Aberfoyle operation application are not yet known, city staff said future water needs could see the city looking at a new well to the south and that could conflict with the water bottling companies plans.

"The staff report confirms what the Wellington Water Watchers has been saying for 10 years, and is a clear reminder to the province that a recognition of long-term public needs must be a central priority in how applications for groundwater taking are assessed," said Robert Case, spokesperson for Wellington Water Watchers.

"Nestlé's water-taking in Aberfoyle is already having an impact on local water systems, and, as City of Guelph staff points out in their report, put the city into competition with Nestlé's water taking for water security over the long term," Case said.

There has been discussion at Guelph City Council in the recent past as to whether Nestlé  Waters' operation in Aberfoyle actually has a direct impact on the city.

So far there are 16 delegations scheduled for the Nov. 7 meeting in council chambers, including representatives of Nestlé Waters Canada, the Canadian Beverage Association and the Canadian Bottled Water Association.

In its latest official statement, Nestlé said "we are keen to participate in science-based conversations with all community stakeholders.

"We plan to be fully engaged in the consultation along with our neighbours and other water users in the Wellington County community and across the public. Public consultation on water sustainability, pricing and future planning are extremely important."

The technical summaries going to council Nov. 7 are from the Water Supply Master Plan and a Tier 3 Water Budget Project done in conjunction with Guelph/Eramosa Township, the province and the Grand River Conservation Area.

The water budget is intended to address "water quality threats" and a tiered approach to future water needs.

It looks at the full spectrum of potential water needs, including projected city and municipality growth and possible severe drought conditions.

The report says the city/municipality currently uses 84,000 cubic metres of water a day, but will need between an additional 10,500 to 18,500 cubic metres per day by 2038.

A new well in the area of Victoria Road/Maltby Road south of Guelph is seen as a potential source for that extra water and that could lead to "potential conflict with Nestlé  water taking" the report states.

The province has proposed a two-year moratorium on new or expanded groundwater extraction permits by bottling companies and stricter rules for existing permits.

Comment is being gathered until Dec. 1.

City staff is recommending that following the public comments made at the Nov. 7 meeting, staff come up with a report back to council on Nov. 28 with a recommended resolution to be sent to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change regarding the province's water-taking review process.

Council previously passed a motion, initiated by Coun. James Gordon, that reads: "That Council, with administrative assistance from Intergovernmental Relations, Policy and Open Government staff, submit comments through the Ontario Environmental Registry Process expressing Guelph’s concern about the future sustainability of water-taking from the watershed shared by the City of Guelph."

Nestlé Waters has made an application to renew its permit to take water, but the details of that permit have yet to be posted on the province's Environmental Registry.

"Once the application has been posted, formal staff comments will be finalized and submitted to Council, and from Council to the MOECC," says the report heading to council Nov. 7.


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Tony Saxon

About the Author: Tony Saxon

Tony Saxon has had a rich and varied 30 year career as a journalist, an award winning correspondent, columnist, reporter, feature writer and photographer.
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