Nestle continues extracting water from Canadian towns without renewing expired permits


The world’s bottled water giant, Nestlé, has been allegedly extracting water from Canadian towns on expired permits. The Switzerland-based company is attempting to defend its stance, saying that the permits expired due to the changing water management rules which complicated the process.

But that’s not what the real story is.

A Canadian Government official told VICE News that Nestle is exhausting the public resource, cashing on hefty profits, while increasing plastic pollution every passing day.

The dispute

Who should control the rights to natural resources? Should a multinational be given the permit to exploit the natural resources of a country? How heavily should the government tax and regulate the companies utilizing country’s natural resources? The rising global demand for the bottled water is leading to a very steep rise in plastic pollution.

No More Water till You Get the Permits!

Environmentalists in the Town of Erin, have spoken up and want the authorities to prohibit Nestlé from extracting water until they get the proper permits. However, the Canadian government has been resisting such demands, which means, Nestlé could continue extracting water on expired permits, and according to Gary Wheeler, Ontario government spokesperson, Nestlé can remain in force and continue its operations until the ministry takes a decision to renew the application. He said, “Nestlé is in the process of amending their “Permit to Take Water applications” in order to meet “new technical requirements” from the government”.

Currently, Nestlé is extracting around 5 million liters per day from Erin and Aberfoyle sites.

It’s worth mentioning that the Ontario government has imposed a moratorium on new permits for extraction of water for bottling until January 2019.

According to Mike Nagy, a business consultant and activist for Wellington Water Watchers, “It’s a classic conflict of the needs of the few outweighing the needs of the many”. He also said that the towns in Wellington area require more water to meet the needs of the growing population.

Between 2011 and 2015, the water levels in aquifers where Nestle has been operating feel by 1.5 meters, whereas the company’s pumping activities within the same area rose by 33 percent. The activists also raised the concern that the fee paid by the bottling company isn’t even enough to cover for the monitoring of the resource. Lui from the Council of Canadians says, “Nestlé was pumping from the aquifer faster than it could be recharged”.

The government has significantly increased the cost of extraction from mere few dollars, for every million liters, to $503.71. Wheeler says, “This new fee is expected to recover a significant portion of the province’s costs of managing groundwater taken by water bottlers, including supporting scientific research, policies, outreach, and compliance. “Ontario’s charge is among the highest provincial water charges for water bottling in Canada,” he added.

In 2016, 480 billion plastic drinking bottles were produced which has gone up from 300 billion just a decade ago. According to Euromonitor International, most of the bottles end up in landfills and oceans. According to one study, around five million tonnes of plastic is dumped into the oceans every year, and by 2050, there will be more plastic by weight in the oceans than fish.