Healing Gaia

Important Victory in Campaign to Keep Water Public

Guelph-Eramosa Council voted to reject an application to build a groundwater extraction and bottling facility outside Guelph.

By Doreen Nicoll
Published July 19, 2018

Last week I asked you to "GET" to know Wellington Water Watchers (WWW). To refresh your memory WWW has been asking the provincial government to place a permanent moratorium on water extraction by Nestle's throughout Wellington county and to phase out the bottled water industry in Ontario within ten years.

Their most recent campaign, Guelph-Eramosa Township (GET) Concerned, went into action to protect the township's source groundwater from additional extraction by the Xinyi Glass.

On Monday night, in a 4-to-1 vote, Guelph-Eramosa Council upheld the existing bylaw that effectively refutes Xinyi's application to build a facility outside Guelph. Council, which initially favoured the project, supported the zoning bylaw definition of 'dry use' and stated the extraction of 1.56 million litres of water per day did not meet that definition.

Councillor Mark Bouwmeester, the lone dissenting vote, asked those in attendance to consider how Xinyi Glass was going to feel after the company had done everything that was asked of them including conducting studies and completing reports.

Well, the over 300 people in the crowd told Bouwmeester exactly what they thought when they broke into spontaneous, unanimous, ear-splitting applause as the decision was announced. Let's hope Bouwmeester's constituents tell him exactly what they thought of his corporate agenda by voting him out of council on October 22.

This victory was won by the tireless organizing of the leaders of the GET Concerned campaign and the community they mobilized. GET Concerned also collected over 1,700 signatures on their petition opposing the Xinyi Glass proposal.

While Xinyi Glass could still appeal the decision, this was a resounding victory.

But those of us concerned about water security are already back at work. For over 15 years, Nestle has been extracting water for profit in Wellington county. WWW campaign Water for Life, Not Profit maintains water should be treated as a commons, not a commodity to be bought and sold on the world market.

Nestlé currently has two expired permits for wells in Aberfoyle and Hillsburgh but continues extracting a total maximum of 4.7 million litres per day. In addition, it purchased a well in Middlebrook and hopes to secure a permit for that site as well.

WWW believes water is a basic human right. With a new provincial government that believes everything is open for business, access to water for the common person just became that much more precarious.

This is not just about one corporation's insatiable demand for our water. It is about strengthening provincial regulations in order to help protect water across this beautiful province, the country and around the world.

This election season is your opportunity to help safeguard our precious water. Find out what your mayor, municipal and regional councillors, and various candidates are doing to protect your ground or lake water; ensure public ownership and control of water; respect the duty to consult with Indigenous communities; and to place a moratorium on bottled water in all city owned and operated facilities.

On October 22, let your voice be heard - elect municipal and regional officials who will ensure universal access to clean drinking water for all citizens now and for generations to come.

Doreen Nicoll is a feminist and a member of several community organizations working diligently to end poverty, hunger and gendered violence.

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