Salmon Arm council is thirsty for information on how to prevent the commercial bottling of groundwater within its boundaries.
At its June 28 meeting, Coun. Tim Lavery moved that city staff be asked to report on options for the city to prohibit the commercial bottling of groundwater in all its zones via its land-use bylaws. The majority of council supported his motion.
He noted that council recently endorsed a motion opposing the extraction of groundwater for the purposes of commercial bottled or bulk water sales and advised the province of that motion.
Lavery said while the provincial government has control over whether groundwater licences are approved, without input from a municipality, the city does have control over its own zoning bylaws.
He said examples exist of the province making decisions on applications that don’t match a community’s wishes.
While Lavery said he had concerns about whether staff would have time to take on such a report, Kevin Pearson, director of development services, said he could provide options for council probably in late July or early August.
Council’s interest in groundwater licences piqued when a groundwater licence application for bottling fresh water was made to the provincial government from a property at 3030 40th St. SE in Salmon Arm. It proposed taking approximately 95,000 US gallons per day – a total of more than 34 million US gallons per year – from a well.
Coun. Kevin Flynn was alone in opposing Lavery’s motion.
He emphasized that his opposition is not because he’s in support of groundwater extraction or bottled water in plastic bottles.
He asked what if the province approves the current extraction application and then the proponents take the water from the aquifer within Salmon Arm’s boundaries and ship it to Vernon or Kamloops or Sicamous to bottle.
“So it’s being extracted from our grounds because the province approves it, and we’re sending the jobs somewhere else and it’s not exactly environmentally friendly to be shipping it either…”
He said he can’t support the motion without knowing more.
“I know we’re just asking staff to do some research, but I really want people to take a step back…”
Both Couns. Debbie Cannon and Sylvia Lindgren spoke in support of the motion.
“Bottled water from an aquifer in our city boundaries is wrong in so many ways, not so much the plastic bottle aspect of it, but when I was on the Interior Health board, in just the area of IHA, the boundaries, how many First Nations, different areas, don’t have good water?”
She said other communities talk about having multinationals that have opened up and started bottling water.
“I don’t want to see aquifers sold off in a licence for someone to profit, so I support the motion wholeheartedly.”
Lindgren referred to water being a basic right.
“It shouldn’t be licensed and sold to one private developer to make money from. I think we have to be very careful about how we allow that to happen here.”
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