Questions and answers about Nestlé, Guelph’s water restrictions and conservation

Guelph’s responses to MOECC’s water-taking review and Nestlé’s renewal application

We filed our submission on November 30, 2016 to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) in support of the proposed two-year moratorium on new water-taking permits and renewals for water bottling purposes. Our submission included recommended considerations and changes to Ontario’s water-taking regulations. Read the complete, Council-approved submission to the MOECC’s environmental registry 012-8783 (November 30, 2016).

Since then, we continue to submit comments on each new, related topic posted to the MOECC’s environmental registry:

EBR Registry Number 012-9574 a Regulation Establishing a New Water Bottling Charge
Submitted February 21, 2017

EBR Registry Number 012-9151 Procedural and Technical Guidance Document for Bottled Water: Permit to Take Water Applications and Hydrogeological Study Requirements Submitted January 27, 2017

EBR Registry Number 013-3974 on Extending the moratorium on water bottling permits
Submitted November 29, 2018

The MOECC released the Interim Procedural and Technical Guidance Document for Bottled Water Renewals: Permit to Take Water Applications and Hydrogeological Study Requirements on the Ontario Environmental Registry on April 21, 2017.

This provides new procedures and technical requirements for water bottling applicants renewing existing permits to take groundwater. Although the MOECC has not extended opportunities for public comment, the document is consistent with our previous comment submissions on the following requirements for water bottling applicants:

  • additional consultation for applicants renewing permits to take water
  • a stronger science-based process to evaluate proposed water taking impacts that include source water protection technical models, which prioritize future municipal growth and the associated water demands
  • more transparent information sharing online, including weekly water monitoring data for public reference
  • reducing the maximum term to five years for a permit-to-take-water
  • higher administration fees to adequately fund the Ministry’s oversight

Our preliminary position on Nestlé’s permit to take water renewal application

We have reviewed existing, public information to inform our preliminary position—as a local stakeholder—on Nestlé’s permit to take water (PTTW) renewal application. The application is not yet publicly available, which is why our position at this point in time is considered preliminary.

Our proposed position is based on the scientific review and analysis, by our own hydrogeologist, of the data and findings in Nestlé’s 2015 Annual Monitoring Report.

Here’s a summary of Nestlé’s key facts:

  • Water levels in the Amabel Aquifer, the water source of Nestlé’s Aberfoyle-based well, are stable
  • Nestlé’s water-taking has not caused a decline or drop in water levels year after year
  • There are no negative impacts to the aquifer
  • Water taking at the current rate is sustainable at this point in time

Our previous opinion, expressed to the MOECC, of Nestlé’s PPTW application in 2007 and renewal application in 2011 remains the same today. Overall, we are not opposed to the renewal of the permit for a five-year period, as it does not interfere with our current water takings. However, we are concerned about the availability of water supply in the area to satisfy future community growth.

As was previously done, and subject to the MOECC’s review of the water taking process, we will likely again ask the MOECC not to increase the permit beyond its current approved rate and consider the water needs of the greater community and the constraints of the natural ecosystem to provide sustainable drinking water supplies.

The following are new considerations we may add to our response to the MOECC, as they relate to Nestlé’s application.

  • Protecting our water at the source – The City, local municipal governments and the Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) are finalizing a water budget analysis, which is scientific research that compares available water supply to the current and future demand on our drinking water systems. Computer models of our groundwater system confirm that Guelph’s existing water supply is able to meet the future demand in all but one extreme model scenario that combines 10-year drought conditions, increased land use development and additional municipal pumping. To manage this risk, the City, GRCA and other local municipalities will develop policies to ensure the quantity, protection and preservation of our water resources for a sustainable municipal water supply. As a permitted water taker in the area, Nestlé may be subject to the risk management measures and policies developed.
  • Our future water demand – Our recent efforts to update the Water Supply Master Plan included a review of Guelph’s future water demands based on growth and our municipal water supply capacity to develop a path forward for supplementing our water supplies through 2038. One of the options proposed is a new well outside the city that has the potential to conflict with Nestlé’s water taking.

We will share this information with MOECC to weigh future renewals of industrial water takings in the area against the broader needs of our community, which includes the potential risk that available supply may not meet future demand and the continued water takings may not be sustainable without proper management of the resource.

Questions and answers

Here are answers to your top questions about Nestlé’s water-taking activities, our Outside Water Use program’s level 2 restrictions, and how water conservation factors into sustainable community growth.

If you have a question that we haven’t answered here, please contact us at waterservices@guelph.ca or 519-837-5627.

Nestle’s permit-to-take water application

No, the City does not have a policy in place to prevent the use of bottled water in its facilities. A number of City facilities have water fountains and re-useable bottle water filling stations to encourage the use of tap water and reusable containers.City facilities sell bottled water in vending machines and at concession counters among other varieties of bottled beverages.

The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change is responsible for reviewing Nestlé’s applications and issuing a permit to take water that is sustainable.The City is a local stakeholder that will provide comment to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change on water taking activities that take place in Puslinch Township.

City staff and residents will have an opportunity to comment on Nestlé’s most recent application to take water when it’s posted on the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change’s Ontario Environmental Registry. The 30-day comment period and deadline will be established once posted to the registry.

Nestlé takes its water from its own well located in Aberfoyle outside the City of Guelph. The company’s water-taking activities are regulated by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.Although Nestlé’s water taking doesn’t impact the City’s municipal groundwater supply directly, the City supports that all local takers of this important resource exercise care and stewardship in their takings.

City staff and residents will have an opportunity to comment on Nestlé’s most recent application to take water when it is posted on the Ontario Environmental Registry.

The City provided comment to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change on Nestle’s 2007 application and again on the 2011 renewal. It will comment on this year’s application too—first, to Council and the community, and then to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.

The City uses about 45 million litres per day and our 17 permits from the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) allow us to take up to 122 million litres per day.In 2015, Nestlé used about 2.1 million litres per day and their permit allows them to take up to 3.6 million litres per day.

Nestlé’s water is taken from the Mill Creek subwatershed, which is “downstream” from the Speed River and Eramosa River subwatersheds—the source of the City’s water. Although these subwatersheds are all located in the Grand River watershed, the environmental effects from water taking activities in the Mill Creek subwatershed don’t currently extend to the Speed and Eramosa subwatersheds. At present, the Nestlé water taking has no effect on the City of Guelph’s current water supply.

Does the City pay the MOECC for the water it pumps out of the ground?

No, municipalities are not charged for taking water.

Municipal water supply

The cost to expand the City’s water supply is detailed in the Council-approved 2014 Water Supply Master Plan Update (page 152, onward). As per the proposed 2017 Non-Tax Capital Budget, the 10-year (2017 to 2026) budget for new water supply (WT0002) will require $12.3 million in funding from development charges, and is about 6.7 per cent of the City’s total proposed 10-year capital budget.Additional costs are required to obtain provincial approval for new sources of water supply capacity, which is increasingly difficult, time intensive and expensive. Regulatory approvals for new groundwater sources depends on comprehensive hydrogeological studies to demonstrate the sustainability of the water taking and the lack of impact on neighbouring permit holders and the natural environment. These requirements can amount to many years of study with no guarantee of obtaining final MOE approvals, and are often carried out in competition with neighbouring jurisdictions and/or private landowners who are also pursuing new groundwater sources. For example, the recently approved additional supply from the Arkell Spring Grounds required over 10 years of study at a cost of over $10 million for a temporary permit from the province.

Costs of water management planning are commonly nested within larger City planning initiatives and not tracked separately under a model that accounts for billable hours, limiting direct reporting on specific projects or activities.

The Guelph Water Supply Master Plan Update (draft, 2014) includes a review of alternatives to meet the water supply needs for the projected residential and employment population to 2038 and beyond, recognizing the long timeline required to establish new sources of supply.The preferred water supply alternative consists of an enhanced water conservation scenario as well as a number of groundwater supply initiatives that include incorporating treatment and development of existing municipal off-line wells and test wells, and a new well in Guelph.

There are limitations on the amount of groundwater that can be pumped from the study area without causing significant environmental effects. An analysis of the Tier 3 model informed the maximum groundwater supply within 5 km of city limits to ensure the total groundwater supply included in the alternatives was within the maximum sustainable range. At the time of the WSMP update, it was determined that existing and new groundwater supplies are able to provide sufficient water supply to satisfy current and projected demand.

There are also projects that fall within the 25 year study period, although the water supply capacity is not required until outside the study period. This identifies the need to look beyond 25 years to better understand potential future requirements and determine where preliminary work must take place in preparation for the following years. For the purpose of co-ordinating other City initiatives and determining budgetary requirements from 2013 to 2041 that align with the Province’s Growth Plan for Greater Golden Horseshoe municipalities – Amendment 2, population and water demand projections were also extended based on the City planning information.

For the preferred Enhanced Water Conservation alternative, there are additional groundwater projects required in years 2039 to 2041, in addition to projects in the following five year period that require preliminary studies and costs.

Included in these projects are two new wells to be situated outside of Guelph’s boundaries, one in the south (Township of Puslinch) and one in the north (Township of Guelph-Eramosa). We project they are required in 2043 and 2047, respectively, with the investigation, Class EA studies, and construction completed beforehand. Development of these wells represents the last available ‘local’ groundwater supply before considering surface water supply options.

The cost to City rate payers will be the operational and maintenance costs for groundwater based supply projects. These costs will be incurred over time, as each new supply source is developed and commissioned. The cost is an additional $793,000 per year funded by water use rates.

Currently, the PTTW process ensures fair sharing of water; promote stewardship of the resource; prevent unacceptable interference with other use of water; recognize and safeguard the right of the ecosystem to water for optimal function and to sustain the inherent natural variability of ecosystems.For the City to have priority access to water, the basic principles of the PTTW process need to be re-written. This would likely entail revisions to provincial acts and regulations such as the Ontario Water Resources Act. In Ontario, in general, the first person to “capture” the groundwater for use, has priority use over the groundwater. Subsequent water takers must not interfere with existing water takings and most permits have clauses that state the permitted taking must not interfere with existing takings that are in use prior to the issuance of the permit.

The 2011 GRCA Water Management Plan Report (page 2), includes a pie chart that illustrates the major water users by sector within the watershed.

No, the water in our wells is not declining. Some of City’s wells have been in operation since the 1930s, and the amount of water in the wells today is similar to their historical production capacity. We track the production capacity and water levels of our wells regularly; year over year, there is no decline in the water levels and there is no indication we are extracting more water than is available through recharge. However, as the City has added wells over the last 50 years and increased pumping capacity to meet demand, water levels in the aquifer are lower now than in the past due to the higher total pumping rate. If the wells were turned off, the water levels would recover to close to their historical levels.The recharge rate of our aquifer depends on a number of factors. The average recharge for the Upper Speed River subwatershed is approximately 187 mm/year (315,455 m3/day, 315,455,000 L/day).

Guelph Water Services operates its wells to maintain production capacity to meet customer demands. Our wells are operated to achieve a set production capacity for a set water level in the well. In general, the wells are in a steady state under these conditions but some wells go on and off as the demands fluctuate daily, weekly or seasonally. Some wells, on occasion, show a decline in production capacity for the same water level in the well. This drop is usually due to scaling of the well bore, and in such situations the well is taken offline and cleaned to restore its production capacity.

For reference, the following graph provides a summary of average total water pumpage for Clythe Booster station by time of day on October 26, 2016. This location was chosen as an example because the booster station feeds water to a confined area of the distribution system for residential use and represents a larger time of day demand trend seen across Guelph.To plot all sites, a significant amount of work would be required to reduce or eliminate demands associated with operator intervention (such as the filling and draw down of tower storage volumes) to provide systematic city-wide trends. Customer water billing is done monthly and City staff is unable to further aggregate demand by sector and time of day with the information available.

The information below provides average daily water consumption by sector, for industries that use over 50m3/day (on average) and are serviced by the municipal water supply. Under the terms of collection and privacy for customer accounts, the City is unable to share individual company names or direct consumption of specific customers. Within Guelph, these water users contribute a total of 16,000 jobs and $13.6 million in annual tax revenue.

SectorCubic metres per day<tbody

Food & Beverage 4735
Schools & Universities 1788
Manufacturing 1684
Automotive 1534
Services 529
Nursing Home 461
Health Care 378
Retail 106
Hotels & Motels 62

Several sources confirm coin and automatic car washes use less water than someone in their driveway since a portion of the water is often reclaimed/recycled. Plus, the runoff from your driveway goes straight into the river whereas runoff from a car wash is treated at the wastewater plant. At-home car washing is not permitted under level 2 red restrictions.Supporting resources:

Groundwater is a renewal resource. As long as water taking activities remove only a small fraction of the local recharge (i.e. the infiltration of rain and melted snow into the aquifer), the water taking is considered sustainable.

Guelph is growing, and we expect that to continue. Each year, the City prepares a development priorities plan to manage growth in a balanced and sustainable way, and Guelph’s water supply is a key consideration when the City reviews proposed development applications. New development is only included in the development priorities plan if there is sufficient water supply capacity to support the growth. Policies in Guelph’s Official Plan restrict or prohibit development where municipal services, such as water, cannot meet capacity or are otherwise inadequate to service new development.Advancements in technology also mean new developments are built to higher water efficiency standards. Ontario Building Code standards improve as more efficient technologies become proven, and the City offers additional incentives for making new home developments even more efficient through the Blue Built Home program.

The provincial government provides growth targets for Guelph as part of overall growth planning for Ontario. Until October 31, you can provide comments to the Province on the proposed growth plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe. The minimum gross density target proposed for Guelph is 150 residents and jobs combined per hectare by 2031.
While population growth does increase overall water demands, conservation efforts and advancements in technology over the last decade have actually led to a decrease in water use per person. In fact, since 2006, Guelph’s population has increased by 12 per cent while average daily water use has gone down by 12 per cent!

Guelph’s water distribution system includes more than 500 kilometres of underground pipes. These pipes, just like the plumbing in our homes, leak.

Our water distribution system is getting older. Old pipes combined with the very cold temperatures over the last two winters, have caused more leaks and watermain breaks than usual.

In 2015, the City’s water distribution system leaked an average of 7.7 million litres per day or about 16 per cent of the total amount of water the City pumps, this information is available the City’s Water Efficiency Strategy Update (section 4.5 Non-Revenue Water, page 49).

Although the amount leaked in Guelph is consistent with most municipal water systems, which ranges between and 10 and 20 per cent of the total amount pumped, the City’s actively reducing the amount of water it losses with the help of technology and responsive staff.

Identifying and repairing leaks as quickly as possible is done one of two ways in Guelph, by:

  • Listening with electronic microphones and recording gear to the water flow in aging water pipes. This saved 3.1 million litres of water each day in 2015.
  • Changing the configuration of the distribution system into smaller networks of pipes and installing monitoring equipment that measures the flow of the water in real time to identify leaks as soon as they start.

No, most of the water leaked from our underground pipes eventually recharges the same aquifers that supply water to our groundwater wells.

Regardless of weather conditions, the City’s efforts to reduce the number of leaks and the quantity of water lost through leakage continue year ‘round.

The City of Guelph moved to level 2 red outside water use restrictions on July 5 when monitored indicators including long- and short-term rainfall, local river flows and water demands fell below thresholds set for level 2 red.

Guelph got less than half the normal amount of precipitation that would be expected between May and October this year. This was the most significant factor contributing to the continuation of level 2 red restrictions.

The Grand River Conservation Authority’s low water response team was also monitoring water levels and the watershed and sub-watershed levels. The effects of low precipitation impacted the entire watershed, and the Authority maintained a high alert low water status throughout the summer as well.

Yes. Our bylaw team is out enforcing Level 2 Red water restrictions. No lawn watering, no car washing. Watering flowers is allowed every other day 7-9 am/pm. Watering trees and food gardens is allowed anytime.

Several sources confirm coin and automatic car washes use less water than someone in their driveway since a portion of the water is often reclaimed/recycled. Plus, the runoff from your driveway goes straight into the river whereas runoff from a car wash is treated at the wastewater plant. At-home car washing is not permitted when the City is under level 2 red outside water use restrictions.

Guelph’s water supply wells are located within the city as well as the neighbouring townships. The percentage of water that comes from inside or outside of Guelph depends on many operational factors, including: water demand, delivery costs and well maintenance. The Arkell wells, located on City-owned property in Puslinch, produce the most water for Guelph. These wells accommodate 40 to 60 percent of the City’s average daily demand.It’s important to know that Guelph’s water supply comes from a deep bedrock aquifer and the source of the water for this aquifer is derived from precipitation. Rainfall and snow melt infiltrate the subsurface and recharge the bedrock aquifers. Recharge for Guelph’s aquifer occurs over a very large area that includes Guelph and the surrounding townships. While the physical wellhead may be located in Guelph or an adjacent township, the source of the water may come from a large area (i.e. the well capture zone) surrounding the well.

The City’s Water Supply Master Plan Update (2014) (WSMP) sets out the long-term plan to supplement Guelph’s water supply through to 2038 and beyond. The Plan includes a number of water supply options, which are listed in priority, as follows: enhancing water conservation programs, improving existing water supply wells, adding new water supply wells within Guelph, getting off line wells back into service with water treatment, and once these options have been evaluated and exhausted—adding new water supply wells outside of Guelph. Wells in adjacent municipalities are only planned, if necessary, in the latter parts of the Plan (i.e. in the year 2030 and beyond).The WSMP Update has always qualified the approach to new wells outside of Guelph as one that needs the participation and cooperation of the host municipality. New wells inside or outside of Guelph require extensive evaluations, hydrogeological investigations, environmental assessments and public consultations before they are approved by the province.

The hope is that through the Class Environmental Assessment (EA) process, consensus can be reached with the adjacent municipalities. This process would include comprehensive scientific studies and demonstrated need to meet provincial growth targets, in order to justify whether a new water supply well for Guelph is in the best interest of both the local and larger community.

Under Part IV of the Clean Water Act, a municipality must comply with all obligations to protect existing and future municipal drinking water supplies within its jurisdiction. This includes both surface water and groundwater that is located within the municipality, even if these sources of water are being used by another municipality.

The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) has the legislative authority to issue permits to take water under the Ontario Water Resources Act. To obtain approval for a new municipal groundwater supply, a municipality must follow steps:

  1. Initiate a provincial Class Environmental Assessment (EA) to assess the alternatives of the project and the potential environmental impacts, in order to determine the best approach to address the need for water supply capacity.  Class EAs require public notification and provide opportunities for stakeholder input.  Class EA findings, from research and community input, are then provided to the province for final decision.
  2. Under the framework of the Class EA for new water supply, the municipality identifies the preferred location(s) to install test wells and performs preliminary testing and evaluations.  The municipality applies to the MOECC for a temporary permit to take water to perform the preliminary testing of the well.
  3. Based on the results of the testing program, the municipality completes the Class EA study, and publishes the results for community comment. Then the municipality submits the results along with comments received, and its recommendations, to the MOECC for final approval.
  4. If the province approves the Class EA, the municipality would then apply for a permit to take water (again to be approved by the MOECC with public comment) and proceed to construction and implementation of the new municipal water supply.

If a stakeholder objects through the EA process to the approval of the project, then the province can review the concerns and either reject the project or approve the project with changes to address the objections.

The term for a permit to take water can be set at five to 10 years.  When existing permits expire, and the permit owner applies for a renewal, the community again has the opportunity to comment to the province.

The City has a long history of working together with adjacent municipalities to support municipal water supply. The capture zones for Guelph’s municipal groundwater wells extend into the neighbouring municipalities of Puslinch and Guelph/Eramosa. The groundwater levels in the deep water bearing formations used for groundwater taking are influenced by the City’s pumping. Shallower groundwater formations are generally unaffected. Under the conditions of the permits to take water, the City is not permitted to negatively impact other existing groundwater users that were in place prior to Guelph’s water taking. Guelph Water Services complies with this legislation and acts promptly to investigate and resolve any related interference complaints in a timely manner.Under the Clean Water Act, municipalities must take action to protect the wellhead protection areas (WHPAs) associated with all municipal drinking water supplies within their jurisdiction. Under this legislation, municipalities are required to take appropriate actions (and fund these actions) to protect municipal drinking water supply in the WHPAs that extend into the respective municipality.

Province’s permit-to-take-water process

No, however, the City does pay an application fee for new permits and for permit renewals.

The City provides an annual report of water consumption to the province for phase 1 industrial/commercial users. If a phase 1 user consumes more than 50 cubic metres (50,000 litres) of water on any given day in a year, then they must pay the province $3.71 for every additional 1,000 cubic metres of water (1,000,000 litres) used. Phase 1 users are billed for this use by the province on an annual basis.Phase 1 users, as defined by the province, include the following customers:

  • water-bottling facilities
  • beverage manufacturing facilities
  • fruit and vegetable canning or pickling facilities
  • ready-mix concrete manufacturing facilities
  • other non-metallic mineral product manufacturing facilities
  • pesticide, fertilizer and other agricultural chemical manufacturing facilities; and
  • other inorganic chemical manufacturing facilities

Dewatering for aggregate extraction is not listed as a phase 1 industrial/commercial user.

Only the phase 1 users.Phase 1 users, as defined by the province, include the following customers:

  • water-bottling facilities
  • beverage manufacturing facilities
  • fruit and vegetable canning or pickling facilities
  • ready-mix concrete manufacturing facilities
  • other non-metallic mineral product manufacturing facilities
  • pesticide, fertilizer and other agricultural chemical manufacturing facilities; and
  • other inorganic chemical manufacturing facilities

Currently, the PTTW process ensures fair sharing of water; promote stewardship of the resource; prevent unacceptable interference with other use of water; recognize and safeguard the right of the ecosystem to water for optimal function and to sustain the inherent natural variability of ecosystems.For the City to have priority access to water, the basic principles of the PTTW process need to be re-written. This would likely entail revisions to provincial acts and regulations such as the Ontario Water Resources Act. In Ontario, in general, the first person to “capture” the groundwater for use, has priority use over the groundwater. Subsequent water takers must not interfere with existing water takings and most permits have clauses that state the permitted taking must not interfere with existing takings that are in use prior to the issuance of the permit.

Resources