March 2017 update:
A year after B.C. Premier Christy Clark agreed to review water rates for bottled water companies, she’s quietly backing away from her promises. Right now, companies like Nestlé pay just $2.25 to take a million litres of groundwater -- and they're allowed to withdraw unlimited amounts of precious water to sell at a huge profit.
There's also a dangerous omission to the water pricing review -- the government is leaving out ALL other industrial users. This means that fracking operations like the Northwest LNG terminal will be able to use billions of litres of freshwater for pennies with no oversight. With less than two months until the next B.C. election, Premier Clark is already under intense scrutiny -- let's turn up the pressure and force her to keep her word.
As wildfires rage all over drought-stricken BC, the provincial government is still letting companies like Nestlé take water for $2.25 per million litres.
It is outrageous that Nestlé can draw limitless amounts of Canada's natural resources to sell for a huge profit while British Columbians are asked to not water our lawns and take shorter showers.
Four months after we launched the petition to ask BC to charge fair rates for our groundwater, this is our biggest petition ever in Canada. And we are making waves with dozens of press mentions including the front page of The Province, one of BC's biggest newspapers, and TV interviews with Global News. And thanks to these press hits, political parties are debating the policy.
Tell the BC government to set fair rates for our most precious resource, so that it can pay for good stewardship of the province's water.
Nestlé's chairman says that "extremist" NGOs are responsible for the idea that water is a human right, and that water should have a market price -- apparently he thinks that the “market price" for him is $2.25.
The cruel irony is that the new water legislation is fairly appropriate when it comes to individuals' water use -- but corporations, once again, get off with paying virtually nothing. If you or I were to bottle enough groundwater to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool, we'd pay $180. Nestlé will pay $6.25. That's bananas.
BC has some of the purest, cleanest and most delicious water in the world -- and Nestlé doesn't think anything of sucking it out of the ground for a pittance and selling it back to us in a plastic bottle. Nor does the BC government, apparently. This new pricing structure, which was supposed to fix the problem of freeloading corporations, is even more outrageous at a time when many parts of the world are facing extreme water shortages.
We need your voice to stop this.
SumOfUs members across the globe have mobilized in the hundreds of thousands to call for Nestle to stop exploiting water rights. From Pakistan to California to Oregon to right here in Canada, we are going to make sure Nestle can't walk away with our water without paying fair rates.
Call on the BC government to stop allowing Nestlé and other corporate freeloaders from extracting our water for next to nothing.
On top of being our biggest Canadian petition ever, this campaign has kick-started a national conversation. From news anchors to social media, it seems like everyone's been talking about water.
We wanted to take a few minutes here to answer the questions we've been hearing most often about this campaign.
Q. Will raising the rates change the status of water under NAFTA?
In short, no it won't -- which is good news. Freshwater reserves in their natural state are not a commodity and should never be for sale.
Right now companies like Nestle get privileged access to this water. Not only can they take unlimited amounts of groundwater for free, the government doesn't even charge administrative fees that can actually support real stewardship of freshwater resources. Our petition used the word "price" because that's how the BC government talks about water rental rates, and that's the first piece of the change we are fighting for.
It's misleading to suggest that raising the water rates in BC would have any impact on how NAFTA is applied. Right now, provinces across Canada charge water rates up to $140 per million litres of water accessed, compared to just $2.25 in BC. BC is the very last province in the country to start regulating groundwater, and we are calling on the BC government to step it up. And we cannot let them off the hook.
"Raising water volume rents under the new legislation is timely, and will not affect the status of groundwater under NAFTA." - Deborah Curran, University of Victoria Faculty of Law Professor.
Q. What's next for this campaign?
First and foremost, we need to hold the BC government to its word -- we need to make sure that water rates are reviewed quickly, and that they're high enough to support really strong water stewardship. On July 14, we delivered a 40-lb stack of petition signatures to Minister Polak's office to reminder her that we won't be backing off until she follows through on her commitment.
Next, we'll keep working to make sure precious fresh water reserves are managed responsibly, and not for the benefit of private interests. That's why we're fighting to stop Nestle's bottled water operations in California and to prevent new bottling operations in Oregon. Here in BC, we'll keep fighting to limit groundwater licenses altogether for bottling companies like Nestle and other corporate freeloaders too.