Nestle faces renewed criticism of their B.C. groundwater operations as drought levels increase

WATCH: There is growing outrage over another industry that’s still making millions off of BC’s increasingly precious resource. Nestle Canada takes millions of litres of water every day for free. And while that will change next year critics say the company still gets a bargain. Elaine Yong reports.

As fires rage and drought levels increase throughout the province, one company is facing a new round of attacks for the amount of groundwater they take from British Columbia.

Nestlé Waters takes approximately 230 million litres of fresh water every year from an aquifer in the Fraser Valley. They pay $2.25 for every million litres. And that in itself is new, as Nestlé was previous able to take the water for free before new legislation was brought in last year.

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WATCH: Is Nestlé’s water deal good for B.C. taxpayers? We spoke those involved in the debate earlier this year

A petition launched earlier this year demanding the province charge a fair price for groundwater has gained renewed attention in the last week, and now has over 160,000 signatures.

“160,000 Canadians is enough to show it’s an issue we really care about,” says Liz McDowell, a spokesperson with the group SumOfUs, which launched the petition.

“We don’t want to be looking 20 years in the future and saying we really wish we would have taken better action. I think the current drought and the wildfires across the province are a real wake-up call.”

While Nestlé wouldn’t agree to an on-camera interview Global News, it’s strongly defending its water-use record in British Columbia, and says its actions aren’t negatively affecting the province during this drought.

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“Rivers, lakes and streams are primarily affected by the drought. Nestlé Waters Canada does not draw its water from rivers, lakes and streams. It draws its water from a groundwater aquifer deep below the earth’s surface,” wrote John Challinor, Director of Corporate Affairs for Nestlé Waters Canada, in an email.

“We are strongly committed to responsible water management and continually monitor our groundwater withdrawals and associated water resource indicators such as aquifer levels, spring flows and surface water levels to ensure no adverse impact to the watershed, the associated ecosystem, our neighbours or other water users. We withdraw less than 1 per cent of the available groundwater in the Kawkawa Lake sub-watershed. Each year we publicly report on our withdrawals and monitor data in an annual hydrologic monitoring report. These reports conclude that Nestlé Waters Canada has had no negative impact on the Kawkawa Lake sub-watershed in the 15-year history of our operations.”

Their response is unlikely to quell the anger of many people in this province who are reducing their water use. But Nestlé, which pointed out to Global News there were at least a dozen other water bottling companies operating in B.C., says it’s fully complying with provincial law, and they’re being a good corporate citizen.

“The District of Hope, where our business is located, last week decided to restrict water use across the community by no longer allowing residents and businesses to undertake outdoor watering activities, water lawns or water playing fields, parks or public open space,” wrote Challinor.

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“We are complying with that request.”

WATCH: How the B.C. drought has an impact on food prices



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