Monday, April 13, 2015

Takin' care of business

For each $1 million of Nestle branded water sold, BC is paid about $2. Mind you, this is a better rate of return than the province gains from resource companies mining for metals and minerals.

According to the 2015 Budget and Fiscal Plan, revenue from "metals, minerals and other" is forecast at $83 million. However, revenue from the mining sector is offset by "tax expenditures" of $114 million, all but $10 million credited to corporations. That suggests a current year deficit on direct mining revenues of $41 million, despite $6,989,151 worth of production reported by Natural Resources Canada for 2013. In addition, the Energy and Mines ministry costs taxpayers $30 million yearly.

Most people would be surprised to learn that the BC Liberal Party receives more in contributions from mining companies than BC citizens earn in direct revenues from mining of metals and minerals.

April 13, Emma Lui, water campaigner for the Council of Canadians, talked with Ian Jessop on CFAX1070 about the water issue. Here is the segment.

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  1. It's just amazing that there is so little shame in the perpetrators, and that there is so much ignorance and lack of choler amongst those on whom the fraud is perpetrated. Thanks for this piece, on top of all the others.

  2. The bottled water issue has caught a lot of interest over the past year. In BC, at least, Nestlé seems to be drawing the most flack — even more than the BC Liberals, who I would agree have undercharged on the user fee. We need to be careful what we ask for, though, as the water user fee is for residents and industrial users. If we want water bottlers (and beer and soda bottlers) to pay more… we need to know that we also will pay more for washing our clothes or having a bath.

    The despising of Nestlé probably stems from a few places. Certainly, the international CEO's asinine statements about water rights have gotten a lot of attention. The "draining dry" of parched parts of California also gives them bad press.

    I've got to think that the retail price of bottled water in gas stations and convenience stores is the BIG cause for outrage, though. People see $2.00 for a 500 ml bottle and they hear that Nestlé is paying next to nothing for their groundwater. They assume that the profit between 0.01¢ (my estimate) and $2.00 is going straight to a Swiss bank account… when well over 75% is likely staying at the retail location. And hey… there actually is a cost to pump, treat, package and ship the water. 75 direct employees don't volunteer them time.

    Right now, you can buy a 12 pack of 500ml Nestlé water at London Drugs for $2.69 ($3.79 regular price.) Even charging $1.00 per bottle, a retailer would be making an over 400% markup.

    I have more to say on the subject — especially the specific setting of the Hope water plant, as I have lived and/or worked in the Hope area for 38 years There is no shortage of water there.

    I'll be back, but it may be a while. Grandkids' day!

  3. Back to the water plant at Hope.

    The east side of Kawkawa Lake is a gentle slope of saturated soil. If it wasn't on a slope, it would be a swamp. If you take a garden shovel and dig a shovel's depth into the soil, you will see water running through.

    Numerous spring-fed streams and ditches flow down the slope and into Kawkawa Lake, which has a good population of kokanee salmon (landlocked sockeye.) The kokanee — and sea-run salmon and cutthroat trout — use the east-side creeks for spawning in the fall and winter.

    It's amazing to see the stability of these streams after a hard rainfall. Normally, west coast streams would be full of fury, ripping up spawning beds… but the spring-fed Kawkawa streams take a bit of a rise and continue on at a clean and stable flow, which is very friendly for the fish. Through the summer, the aquifer continues delivering water to the streams.

    There is abundant water in this specific location, something which the Aberfoyle Springs company from Guelph, Ontario realized when they came across the location in the 1990s. A local man by the name of Murphy had been providing a domestic water supply from his property at the top of Summer Road. This property was bought out by Aberfoyle and the existing plant was operational by 1999. (I'm not sure how the east-side domestic water is now provided.)

    According to a source who works at the plant, Nestlé took over from Aberfoyle in about 2005. Payroll is about 75, making it one of the District of Hope's biggest employers.

    Unlike the BC resident, who might pay $180 for municipal water to fill an Olympic-sized pool (an incredibly good deal, by world standards, if true), Nestlé pays next to nothing to the province for the right to pump the groundwater. Unlike the homeowner, it supplies and powers its own pumps, then filters the water, treats it with UV and ozone and bottles it. I suspect the production line is not an exciting place to work on — but there's no effluent or noise emanating from the plant. It's a huge facility, that looks like it could house three hockey rinks.

    All this from an abundant — renewable — resource, that previously only profited Mr. Murphy and his family. If not pumped out of the ground, the water would soon flow into Kawkawa Lake and then to the Fraser River. The plant is at the end of the funnel of the West Coast Express of weather systems and any water sent away to be drunk by West Coasters will soon be back, due to the rain cycle.

    More to follow...

  4. Continued…

    Unlike raw log exports, value has been added to a resource that once provided little profit or tax revenue.

    I'm not saying it's a bottomless well, or that there never will be a dry spell in that area. Certainly, water levels should be monitored — and the local population and ecology should take precedence over any bottling plant's rights to draw water. This is what should be covered in our water act. Currently, Hope has more than enough water for its population — limited only by its willingness or ability to pump. (It's great water, too, with no chlorine ruining the taste. If you're traveling through Hope, get a free sample at the park fountain or at a restaurant. Amazingly, some Hopians buy Nestlé water in Chilliwack, where it is cheaper than at Hope retail grocers, LOL!)

    Nestlé's drawing of groundwater from the Kawkawa Lake aquifer has no effect on water tables in Africa or California — just like a kid eating or leaving food on the plate isn't going to help or hinder the starving kids in Haiti. Come to think of it, it may be helping California slightly. The water is spilling over in Hope and is being shipped to places where it is valued... then the clouds bring the water back and it gets bottled again. If only it could be the same for coal, oil, hard rock minerals and natural gas.

    In summary, I have no beef with any water-bottling plant adding value to water from an overabundant, renewable source. (Piping it away to another country would be a totally different issue, similar to raw logs.)

    If the bottler is paying their own coin to pump, pipe, treat and bottle the water — for a willing marketplace — then so be it. Any water tax, to pay for monitoring of water resources, should be the same as for any typical water user (water polluters/frackers should pay more.) Pay the corporate and municipal taxes, send in your employees' taxes and keep on bottling.



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