Water As Commodity: The Battle Lines Are Drawn In Canada As Town Cries Foul Over Gov’t Handing Nestlé Millions
Environmental groups in Ontario, Canada are crying foul over government plans to reissue Nestlé’s water extraction unit new permits without allowing for public comment.
Nestlé’s water-taking permits near the towns of Guelph and Aberfoyle in southwestern Ontario expired on July 31, but the company has been allowed to continue extracting water from local wells despite the fact that the region is in the midst of a severe drought.
One local environmental group, Wellington Water Watchers says that the Ministry of the Environment didn’t post Nestlé’s renewal application, opening it up to 30 days of public comment as required by law. Instead, the group says, the government inexplicably granted the company an automatic extension without bothering to consult the voters and residents of the area whose lives are going to be affected by the loss of the water.
The government, for its part, claims that the normal procedure allows for permits to be extended for up to 90 days, and says it has plans to post the permit application for the allotted period of public comment once they have reviewed all the relevant documentation provided by Nestlé.
The story has eerie similarities to one that has been ongoing in the San Bernardino Mountains 85 miles outside Los Angeles, where the company continues to pump millions of gallons of water out of that drought-stricken region despite the fact that its permit there is also expired.
But set aside for a moment the asinine nature of any government that would allow a private company to profit from a natural commodity that is scarce and growing scarcer in their community, the loss of which is already hampering the lives of their constituents who live there.
Think about the sheer scale of these operations–and the massive profit Nestlé is sending back to Switzerland on the backs of water-deprived Americans and Canadians: in the case of Ontario, the province charges Nestlé $3.71 for every million liters of water it pumps out. A million liters costs them less than $4.
Think about that next time you fork over five bucks for a single liter of water in the airport gift shop.
Of course, the environmental damage hasn’t gone unaddressed by the government of Canada: Nestlé pays a whopping $750 for a regular permit, and $3,000 for permits considered “high-risk” environmentally.
I guess the residents of Guelph–and dozens of other communities where similar stories are unfolding around the world–can take comfort in the fact that their duly elected government was watching out for their needs by collecting the price of a shitty used car in exchange for their birthright and their children’s future ability to drink clean, life-sustaining water.
Nestlé CEO Peter Brabeck famously said that water isn’t a human right, that it should be a commodity that is privatized.
Apparently that is what our governments think also. It’s up to us to disabuse them of this notion, as Wellington Water Watchers are attempting to do in Canada.