This original article by Chris Daponte appeared in the Wellington Advertiser here

WELLINGTON CTY. – The province has announced that a $500 increase to the fee charged to water bottling companies will take effect this summer.

Starting on Aug. 1, water bottlers will pay $503.71 for every million litres of groundwater taken.

“As the impacts from climate change become more prevalent, Ontario is taking action to ensure water resources are better protected and that we have the best science available,” environment minister Glen Murray stated in a press release.

“This increased fee, along with the other measures we’ve taken, will help increase groundwater protection and scientific understanding of how to best manage this vital resource.”

Provincial officials state the new fee, originally proposed in January, is one of the highest in Canada.

It marks a huge increase over the current fee of $3.71 per million litres of water drawn (companies also pay permit fees ranging from $750 to $3,000 depending on the assessed risk to the environment).

In comparison, municipal water users in Centre Wellington are charged $2.19 per cubic metre or $2,190 per million litres.

Provincial officials say the new $503 fee is a part of the province’s “strong protections for groundwater,” which also include:

  • a moratorium on new and expanded permits for water bottling;
  • stricter rules for renewals of existing permits; and
  • research on long-term water protection that considers climate change and future demand; and
  • engagement with Indigenous partners, communities and industry.

In a June 9 press release, Save Our Water officials noted the fee increase does not go far enough.

“[It] covers only a fraction of the cost to the province of protecting groundwater for future generations,” states the press release.

It later adds, “What appears to be progress does not yet show how water sources will be protected in the province of Ontario.”

The Canadian Bottled Water Association (CWBA) is strongly opposed to the new fee, which represents nearly a  13,500 per cent increase from the existing fee.

“It’s clear that the government has simply picked a nice round number to charge and developed the justification for it afterwards,” stated CBWA executive director Elizabeth Griswold in a press release.

Officials with Nestle Waters Canada, which operates commercial wells in Aberfoyle and Erin and has proposed a well near Elora, have stated the bottled water industry “uses less than 0.6%” of the water in the Grand River Watershed.