New legislation has passed that will see changes next year in the laws pertaining to B.C.’s groundwater, including the possibility of companies like Nestle getting shut down if they fail to abide by usage limits, said MLA and vice-chair of the Environment and Land Use Committee Mary Polak.
Groundwater laws in the province are currently the same as surface water laws, but the multitude of changes that are expected to come into effect in January of 2016 are the first of their kind, Polak said to Vancity Buzz.
“The new legislation will for the first time legally mandate that industry users have to monitor and report their water use, [which] gives government greater control over how much water they can take,” she said.
“A company like Nestle won’t be able to take as much water as they want and just pay for it. They’re only given a certain allocation per year that they’re allowed to take, and that’s it.”
Polak said companies that use groundwater currently report water usage on a volunteer basis, but the new legislation will force them to provide their usage, and gives the government the authority to shut down operations in the case of water scarcity.
Prices that companies like Nestlé are charged by the province are currently under review as well. Polak said the government does not turn a profit on the $2.25 per million litres they charge Nestlé as a “rental” fee, but they want to make sure it is covering the costs of managing the system.
She insists the provincial government does not make money from this fee Nestlé is charged.
“If the argument is that we should not allow water bottling in British Columbia, that’s a different discussion,” she said.
“If we’re going to ask that question about bottling water, we have to ask it about a lot of other things. How valuable is beer? How valuable is the juice or wine that’s produced or any other type of activity that involves water?”
Polak adds Nestlé is not the largest water bottling company in B.C., and that companies like Garibaldi Springs produce much more. She said they are not sure which company is the biggest in the province, but they will know next year when the new legislation comes into effect.
A petition has been circulating calling the B.C. government to review the pricing structure they currently have set up to make sure it is a sufficient amount that is being charged to Nestlé.
Former MLA Judi Tyabji said raising the price of water for companies would be a dangerous move, as it commodifies something that should not be for sale in the first place.