The Ontario government will continue to suspend new applications for water taking in the province for an additional nine months.
“It’s a positive decision and it’s a great step in the right direction,” said Rob Case, chair of Wellington Water Watchers.
A moratorium on new water-taking applications was put in place by the previous Liberal government and was set to expire in December.
The decision isn’t expected to affect Nestlé’s current permit, which enables the company to take 3.6-million litres of water from its Aberfoyle plant. That permit expired in 2016, but the company has been allowed to continue taking water in the years since.
In a statement sent by email on Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks said it is committed to protecting the province’s lakes, waterways and groundwater supply for future generations.
“Our lakes, waterways and groundwater are a vital resource and the foundation of Ontario’s economic prosperity and wellbeing – supplying water to our communities, sustaining traditional activities of Indigenous peoples, supporting Ontario’s economy, and providing healthy ecosystems for recreation and tourism,” said Andrew Buttigieg, press secretary for Jeff Yurek, the minister for Environment, Conservation and Parks.
The moratorium on new or increasing water takings will be extended by another nine months, said Buttigieg.
“During the extended moratorium, we 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,” he said.
In a news release sent Tuesday, Guelph MPP and Green Party leader Mike Schreiner said the government is doing the right thing by proposing to extend the moratorium.
“It would be reckless and irresponsible to allow multinational companies to extract millions of litres of additional water per day without protecting our long-term water supply first,” said Schreiner. “Water belongs first and foremost to the people of Ontario, and it should be managed as a public trust in the public interest, not as a commodity.”
Schreiner is asking the government to immediately share the results of its review and consult on science-based regulations well in advance of the new October deadline.
In a statement, Nestlé Waters Canada said it welcomes the opportunity to further demonstrate its commitment to the responsible stewardship of Ontario's fresh water resources.
“We have always agreed that new water bottling permits should be issued only when the science demonstrates a clear commitment to the health and sustainability of watersheds. Indeed, that is the standard we have and continue to uphold,” said the statement.
Case credits the thousands of Ontarians who have become engaged in the water-taking issue in recent years for putting the pressure on the government.
“(They) let the minister know where they stand on this unproductive and unsustainable industry,” said Case. “We hope the government will push forward on it’s committment to deal with single-use plastic and protecting water for value-added industry and population growth in the future.”