Undercurrents: beneath the obvious

December 9, 2007

The latest for thirsty furry friends: bottled water

Filed under: Bottled Water,Canada — nemo @ 6:00 pm

From the CBC News comes this article regarding new marketing avenues opening up for bottled water:

Bottled water, a staple for the two-legged, is now being aimed at the four-legged market.

Aquience, a Charlottetown, Ontario-based company, recently launched Pet Quench, a water it says addresses a critical need for pets, particularly cats, which are prone to urinary disorders. “Cats are not getting enough liquid in their diet, or not drinking,” company president Derrick Walker said.

“One of the areas that it’s designed for is to induce them to want to drink.”The water contains what the label calls “natural attractant” aimed to make dogs and cats want to drink more of the water. It also has aloe and papaya extract intended to help with digestion.

In the early going, Aquience, which is bottled in Ontario, has reached into markets across the country. The product was developed in Charlottetown, in part with a $50,000 grant from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

Pet Quench is not alone in the market. It’s part of new range of water and water additives aimed at everything from hamsters to horses.

Canadians spend almost $5 billion a year on their pets. Aquience costs $1.79 for a half litre of water.

The water contains “natural attractants” aimed at making dogs and cats want to drink more of it. Not only is the pet water bottled, it apparently is addictive too.

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May 31, 2007

Bill to protect Great Lakes water passes final vote in Ontario legislature

The Chronicle Journal (Thunder Bay, Ontario) carries this update on the legislative process within Ontario to pass the Great Lakes Agreement:

A bill to protect Great Lakes water from being sold or shipped across the continent passed its final hurdle in the Ontario legislature Thursday, as all three parties voted unanimously to pass it into law.

Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay called it “a very important accomplishment,” as Ontario has taken a step toward implementing a deal signed with Quebec and eight U.S. states to institute stronger protections for Great Lakes water.

The international agreement seeks to ban transfers of water outside the Great Lakes basin to protect against other jurisdictions trying to access the resource.

Ontario’s bill also creates a new conservation charge for companies that draw a profit by tapping into the province’s water supply.

Most environmental groups applauded the government for the bill, which they say is stronger than legislation being proposed in the United States.

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April 25, 2007

Waterloo Ontario Looking at Lake Erie Pipeline

The Waterloo Record on more pipeline news:

The proposed pipeline would draw water from an existing Nanticoke treatment plant. The plant would be expanded to supply treated water to seven communities along the Grand River.

Waterloo Region, population 507,000, draws 80 per cent of its drinking water from underground and 20 per cent from the Grand River. Underground sources are considered plentiful and they are being expanded. Water conservation is keeping pace with growth.

Some environmentalists oppose a pipeline at any time, calling on politicians to focus instead on conservation and groundwater protection. However, regional government forecasts call for a Great Lake pipeline by 2035, when the population has grown beyond 729,000.

Lake Erie is touted as a pipeline source in part because there’s already a water-taking permit in place that’s big enough to service Waterloo Region and other communities. The Ontario government approved the permit in the 1970s, based on a 1969 plan to pipe water from Lake Erie to Waterloo Region.

The Ministry of the Environment has said it will reject Lake Huron as a source, to avoid diverting water from one Great Lake to another. Water used [in Waterloo] becomes treated wastewater that flows to Lake Erie, down the Grand River.

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April 13, 2007

Debate to heat up over North American water trade

From Canada’s National Post:

Canadian water is on the table at trilateral talks between politicians, businessmen and academics from Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, …

A series of closed-door conferences for the North American Future 2025 Project will include the discussion of “water transfers” and diversions, according to the outline for the project, a trilateral effort to draft a “blueprint” on economic integration for the governments of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.

The project was launched by the three governments in March 2006 to help guide the ongoing Security and Prosperity Partnership, a wide-ranging effort to further integrate the countries’ practices on everything from environmental rules to security protocols and border controls.

“It’s no secret that the U.S. is going to need water. … It’s no secret that Canada is going to have an overabundance of water. At the end of the day, there may have to be arrangements,” said Armand Peschard-Sverdrup, director of the project, which is spearheaded by the the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a powerful Washington think-tank, in partnership with the Conference Board of Canada and CIDE, a Mexican policy institute.

Pressure on Canada from the U.S. will be intense, according to the UN report, which warns drought may cut a key Texas aquifer that supplies water for two million people by 40%, and decimate the Ogallala aquifer, which underlies eight U.S. states.

Maude Barlow national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, which obtained the outline, said it “shows the American government and its think-tanks … see Canada’s water as a North American resource, not Canada’s.”

Key quotes from the outline (emphasis mine):

  • North America, and particularly the United States and Mexico, will experience water scarcity as a result of arid climates coupled with growing populations and increased water consumption.
  • Canada possesses about 20 percent of the earth’s fresh water. … Because water availability, quality, and allocation are likely to undergo profound changes between 2006 and 2025, policymakers will benefit from a more proactive approach to exploring different creative solutions beyond the current transboundary water management agreements that the United States has reached with both Mexico and Canada.
  • One such option could be regional agreements … on issues such as water consumption, water transfers, artificial diversions of fresh water, water conservation technologies for agricultural irrigation, and urban consumption.
  • The three nations will have to overcome the bureaucratic challenges posed by their different political systems and legal regimes, particularly if the overriding future goal of North America is to achieve joint optimum utilization of the available water

Read the outline here: North American Future 2025 Project (pdf)

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April 10, 2007

Discarded Batteries Imperil Our Water

Filed under: Canada,Great Lakes Issues,Great Lakes Threats — nemo @ 9:21 pm

From the Lake Ontario Waterkeeper comes this article on discarded batteries:

Consumers recycle only about 2 per cent of the batteries they use, and thousands of tonnes of toxic battery waste end up in landfills every year, a new study by Environment Canada says.

It’s estimated that Canadians will discard 495 million rechargeable and non-rechargeable batteries in 2010, up from 347 million in 2004.

Batteries contain heavy metals that may leach from landfill sites into drinking water supplies, the report says.

By 2010, the annual waste from batteries is projected to contain 747 tonnes of lead, which is known to impair intelligence in children; half a tonne of mercury, which can damage the human nervous system; and 287 tonnes of nickel, 543 tonnes of zinc, and 3,501 tonnes of manganese, all of which have some toxic properties.

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April 3, 2007

Ontario to tax water bottlers

The Toronto Star carries this story on the Province’s plan to charge companies that bottle large amounts of water taken from the Great Lakes:

The province imposes only a tiny charge for its mandatory permits for taking large amounts of water. The … proposed legislation does not spell out exactly what constitutes large amounts of bottled water.

The industry insists it’s not a threat to the province’s groundwater supply and complains it is being unfairly singled out.

Although consumption of bottled water in Canada jumped nearly 20 per cent between 2004 and 2005, provincial statistics show bottlers take less than two-tenths of 1 per cent of all the water extracted from Ontario’s lakes, rivers and underground streams, the association stated in a report last year.

“The amount of water that we’re using as an industry is equal to the amount 10 golf courses use in a year,” Griswold [Elizabeth Griswold, executive director of the Canadian Bottled Water Association] said.

The legislation would also enshrine into law a deal signed in December 2005 by Ontario, Quebec and eight U.S. states to strengthen restrictions on bulk water exports out of the Great Lakes. It’s aimed mainly at preventing states in the south and Midwest – whose water supplies are running low – from tapping into the lakes.

For an update on where the Great Lakes Compact and Agreement are in the legislative process, see this prior post.

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March 27, 2007

No Plans for Nuke Waste in Southwestern Ontario – Yet!!

The Waterloo Record carried this article on potential locations for a huge Canadian nuclear waste storage facility:

The concept would house all of Canada’s spent nuclear fuel in a single, $24 billion repository, built between 500 and 1,000 metres below the surface. The fuel bundles would be housed in capsules stored in the main vault.

The deep geological repository option is the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s preferred choice.

From a technical point of view, there’s no reason such a facility couldn’t be built in southern Ontario, said Maurice Dusseault, a geological engineering professor at the University of Waterloo.

And Dusseault said sedimentary rock — especially rock with thicker sediments, like the type found in a line from Sarnia to Goderich — may actually be a better choice than the granite of the Canadian Shield for safety’s sake.

In the highly unlikely event that contaminants escaped into groundwater in sedimentary rock, they would flow through a porous medium that, in concert with surrounding clay, would act as a giant filter. Groundwater flows down in the thicker rock, not toward the surface, and if it eventually came up underneath the floor of one of the Great Lakes, any remaining contaminants would be diluted by the huge bodies of water, Dusseault explained.

Think this is unlikely to happen?? Work on an environmental assessment to store low and intermediate waste in an underground facility at the Bruce Power nuclear station began in 2006. Construction could start in 2012. A proposed 660-meter deep repository would hold non-fuel waste from Ontario’s nuclear reactors in vaults carved out of sedimentary limestone.

See prior post: Ontario nuclear waste site near Lake Huron

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March 22, 2007

Private Bottled Water Companies Flying Under the Radar

Filed under: Bottled Water,Canada,Great Lakes Issues — nemo @ 7:03 pm

The big three bottlers (Coke, Pepsi and Nestle) often garner all the media attention surrounding their bottling activities but there are a substantial number of private labels that go unnoticed. The Polaris Institute released this report on one of them:

In the Spring of 2006, the Ontario government gave the bottled water company Aquafarms permission to take 11.9 billion litres of water over ten years for their operations in Feversham, Ontario. Some of its customers include, Loblaws, Wal-Mart and Shoppers Drug Mart. Aquafarms also has operations in British Columbia, and North Carolina and is in the process of expanding into Tennessee and Massachusetts.

The company is relatively unknown to consumers, but is among the top-four bottled water companies in Canada along with Coke, Pepsi and Nestle. Their anonymity is due to the fact that they are a privately held company. As a private company they are not required to disclose any financial information to regulatory bodies leaving them virtually hidden from public scrutiny. Their status as a private company has let them operate under almost everybody’s radar.

In order for Aquafarms to get permission to take large amounts of water, it is required by law to obtain a Permit To Take Water (PTTW) from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MoE). Their latest PTTW, issued in the Spring of 2006, gives the company permission to take 3,273,120 liters of water a day from three wells for the next ten years. This adds up to 11.9 billion litres over the 10-year period.

There are few statistics on the numbers of licensed bottlers or the amount of water they bottle. Michigan, for instance, had 44 in 2006.

Source: Polaris Institute’s new report Aguafarms 93 Exposed (pdf)

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