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The Ontario government is considering royalties for bottlers and brewers on the water they use it they take it directly from the source, reported the Canadian Press. The government also reported that it will impose a year-long moratorium on new permits while it studies the impact on watersheds.
Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky said that loggers and drillers have to pay fees and follow regulations, and now so will companies taking water from the ground, rivers or lakes.
In the new year, a committee will decide how charges should be applied. This will be the first province to tax based on usage. British Columbia charges only administrative fees for the water permits.
The Candian Press reported that the moratorium was designed to precent the transport of millions of liters of water out of local watersheds without considering the environmental impact. "We simply cannot continue to permit more and more water to be taken without fully understanding the consequences," Dombrowsky said.
The moratorium applies to bottlers, brewers, soft-drink producers, concrete makers and manufacturers who use 50,000 litres of water or more in a day in southern Ontario and those in northern Ontario drawing from watersheds covered by conservation authorities. It does not apply to municipalities, companies that use water from municipal systems or to farmers.
Existing permit holders can continue to draw water, but the maximum amount will be frozen.
Protection of water sources in Ontario has been a major issue since the Walkerton tragedy in May 2000, when seven people died and 2,500 fell ill after their drinking water was contaminated with E. coli bacteria from farm run-off.
Bottlers have said they wouldn't object to an extraction tax provided other users, such as brewers or soft-drink makers, were also required to pay.