Wellington Water Watchers celebrate 10 year anniversary

Wellington Water Watchers celebrate 10 year anniversary

Local activist group continues to make waves in water conservation

Local politicians joined members past and present to celebrate 10 years of the Wellington Water Watchers at the Wooly on March 18.

According to the Wellington Water Watchers’ website, it is an “organization of citizens dedicated to the protection, restoration and conservation of drinking water of Guelph and Wellington County.”

The non-profit, volunteer-operated organization has continually made efforts to protect the area’s natural resources, most recently in opposing Nestlé’s procurement of nearby wells.

To mark a decade of community involvement and to raise awareness about their ongoing campaign against Nestlé, Wellington Water Watchers announced the inception of Waterstock, a new initiative blending music, art, and activism.

Waterstock is in collaboration with Riverfest in Elora and will take place on June 11, 2017 across from the Nestlé well in Hillsburgh, Ont.

“We are inviting people all over the world to support us,” said Dr. Rob Case, a board member of the Wellington Water Watchers. “Admission is through the purchase of what we are calling ‘watershares.’ You buy a five dollar share, and that can you get into Waterstock, and it also means you are supporting this push to say no to Nestlé.”

The event’s announcement coincided with Nestlé’s purchase of the Centre Wellington and Middlebrook wells in August 2016, which has led the community to campaign again. Prior to the purchase of the well located outside of Elora, Ont., Nestlé had access to 4.7 million litres of water via the Hillsburgh and Aberfoyle wells.

If Nestlé secures the Centre Wellington well, it will have access to 6.4 million litres of water a day.

Currently, Premier Kathleen Wynne’s provincial government has placed a moratorium on new permits for water-bottling, including Nestlé’s permit at the Centre Wellington well. The Wellington Water Watchers have taken this as window of opportunity to create fundamental policy change.

“The corporation has its own mandate to accumulate more water and we’re saying no. When they purchased the well in Elora, that was the tipping point for us, that was enough,” Mike Nagy, board chair of the Wellington Water Watchers, said in an interview with The Ontarion.

The Wellington Water Watchers see Waterstock as a rallying call to show support for publicly-owned water and to oppose corporate ownership and privatization of water.

“[Waterstock] will be an artistic event, a celebratory event, and an event to make statements politically. It’s going to be a ‘watershed moment,’ as we call it,” Nagy said. “We want to make this very clear that this is a very important thing and that the province knows that.”

The announcement of Waterstock arrives coupled with the release of a new poll commissioned by the local water protection group. The poll was conducted by Mainstreet Research, and it randomly sampled over 4,000 citizens from all across Ontario.

One of the questions posed to residents was the phasing out of for-profit plastic water bottles over the next 10 years. The results revealed that 63 per cent of Ontario citizens agreed to the phasing out of single-use plastic water bottles.

The results also show that it is a non-partisan issue: the majority of Liberal, Green, and NDP voters support the phasing out of plastic bottles, as well as 56 per cent of Conservatives. Further, 71 per cent of undecided voters agreed with the phasing out of single-use plastic bottles.

“The ecosystem itself requires water every day, and every day we pump it and send it around in the world market the ecosystem is losing out in two ways: the water the ecosystem lost, and the imposition of billions of pieces of plastic that never degrade,” Nagy said.

To create fundamental change towards sustainable water policy, the Wellington Water Watchers has created a four point action plan to say “No to Nestlé.”

The four point policy reads as follows:

1) Say “No to Nestle” in Wellington County;

2) Phase out the bottled water industry within ten years;

3) Respect the duty to consult Indigenous communities;

4) Ensure public ownership and control of water.

“Basically we’re looking for a tiered water policy. It’s a prioritized water use. The type of extraction that Nestlé is doing would be the lowest—if not even allowed as a priority. It does not benefit future generations, which is one of the pillars of the environment statements on the ministry of environment values,” Nagy said.

For those who are looking to live a more environmentally sustainable life, outside of action directly associated with the Wellington Water Watchers, Nagy stresses that students should use reusable mugs and overall be more aware of one’s carbon footprint.

“Packaged water is not a symbol of convenience, it’s a symbol of water inequality in the world. And it is a luxury we can no longer afford,” Nagy said.

Feature image by Kylie Armishaw/The Ontarion.