TORONTO—Ontario water bottling companies will face a $500 fee increase for every million litres of groundwater taken starting Aug. 1.
The province tabled the significant hike in January and said June 8 it will begin implementing the new charge this summer.
“This increased fee, along with the other measures we’ve taken, will help increase groundwater protection and scientific understanding of how to best manage this vital resource,” said Glen Murray, the province’s minister of Environment and Climate Change.
Industrial and commercial water users have been charged just $3.71 for every million litres of groundwater taken since 2009.
Critics blasted the paltry fee last summer after Ontario awarded an automatic extension to food giant Nestle’s water-taking permit during a drought. The debate smoldered through the fall and culminated in a two-year moratorium on permits for new or expanded bottled water operations.
The Canadian Bottled Water Association, which represents the companies that produce the majority of Canadian bottled water, hit out against the new fee June 9.
“It’s clear that the government has simply picked a nice round number to charge and developed the justification for it afterwards,” Elizabeth Griswold, the association’s executive director, said in a statement.
Griswold said the decision could put Ontario jobs at risk and argued the bottled water industry is being singled out by the government while other major water takers escape new fees.
“The entire bottled water industry in Ontario represents only 0.2 per cent of all water takers in the province,” she said. “My question to the government is what about the other 99.8 per cent? To properly sustain the resource, everybody has to be involved.”
Premier Kathleen Wynne has previously argued water taken for agriculture purposes and industrial use should be viewed differently.
The province says proceeds from the new fee will go toward better analyzing the province’s groundwater.