Nestle gets water for free and sells it for millions

Nestlé Waters Canada takes 265 million litres a year of fresh water from a Fraser Valley well in Hope and doesn’t pay a cent or is required by provincial law to file any reports on water it takes from BC.

Because of B.C.’s lack of groundwater regulation, Nestlé Waters Canada — a division of the multi-billion-dollar Switzerland-based Nestlé Group, the world’s largest food company — is not required to measure, report, or pay a penny for the millions of litres of water it draws from Hope and then sells across Western Canada.

According to the provincial Ministry of Environment, “B.C. is the only jurisdiction in Canada that doesn’t regulate groundwater use.”

While Nestlé is the largest bottled water seller in B.C., others, including Whistler Water and Mountain Spring Water, also draw groundwater from B.C. None are required by law to file any report.

“What we do in Hope exceeds what is proposed by the province of British Columbia,” said John Challinor, Nestlé Waters Canada’s director of corporate affairs. Nestle keeps records of water quality and the company’s mapping of the underground water resources in the area exceeds what government scientists have done, Challinor said.

But the fact that Nestlé’s reports are internal and voluntary is the very issue of concern, said Ben Parfitt, a resource policy analyst with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

“There’s a big, big difference between voluntary reporting and mandatory,” said Parfitt. “If it’s voluntary, there’s nothing to stop a company or major water user from choosing not to report … That is absolutely critical. You can’t run a system like this on a voluntary basis.”

Since groundwater remains unregulated in B.C., Nestle does not require a permit for the water they withdraw.

If you walk into Cooper’s Foods in downtown Hope — less than 5 km away from Nestlé’s bottling plant — and buy a 1.5 litre bottle of Nestlé Pure Life water, it will set you back $1.19.

That’s $1.19 more than Nestle paid to the government last year for withdrawing more than 265 million litres of fresh water from the well.

Nestlé’s other water bottling plant in Canada is in Wellington County, Ont., where the province requires them to buy a license and pay for the water they extract. Some critics feel that Ontario’s charge of $3.71 per million litres is still too paltry. But still, it’s more fair than B.C. charging nothing.

Read the complete article in The Province.

Advertisements