A small but fast growing community in Canada wanting to secure water sources was outbid by Nestlé, who wants a backup plan for its other well in the area.
When companies compete with people
Nestlé is the world’s largest producer of bottled water, and it has a long history of abusing water resources. In their quest for profit, the company didn’t shy away from dubious or even illegal moves. Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe once went as far as to say that water isn’t a universal right:
“There are two different opinions on the matter [or water]. The one opinion, which I think is extreme, is represented by the NGOs, who bang on about declaring water a public right. That means that as a human being you should have a right to water. That’s an extreme solution.”
Nestlé, which can already take up to 3.6 million litres of water a day for bottling at its site in nearby Aberfoyle, Ontario, bought another well from Middlebrook Water Company last month. The company said that the site will be a “supplemental well for future business growth” and a backup for its plant in Aberfoyle. The Township of Centre Wellington also wanted the well to secure water for its future development, but the company’s offer was better.
Initially, the company had lots of conditions and wanted to do several tests before acquiring the well, but dropped them when they heard they had a competitor.
This isn’t an abuse in itself, but it highlights an important problem. Local communities shouldn’t have to fight companies for resources – and if they do, there should be some authority to ensure a responsible water usage and the potential for community development. In Ontario for example, this doesn’t seem to be happening, despite pressure from locals and environmental groups. The Council of Canadians, a non-profit social action organization, said that the well and bottling plant are located in a fragile ecosystem around Lake Eire and that allowing the company to extract even more water would add extra pressure on the environment.
“The Nestlé well near Elora sits on the traditional territory of the Six Nations of the Grand River, 11,000 of whom do not have access to clean running water,” said council chair Maude Barlow.
Premier Kathleen Wynne has received heavy criticism for accepting Nestlé’s application. She did say that the rules for granting water-extracting permits are outdated and should be revised but failed to provide any concrete plans or measures.