Chilliwack says no to water bottlers to protect aquifer
Chilliwack council is banning the supply of water to large-scale water bottling companies in order to protect the vulnerable Sardis-Vedder aquifer.
“We are proud of our high-quality water source and the steps that we have taken to protect it," said Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz. "This includes the aquifer protection initiative and the water conservation program."
A bylaw to that effect received introduction and three readings at the last council meeting. Water services and fees under City of Chilliwack's Waterworks bylaw are being updated, and city staff recommended increasing some fees to ensure better cost-recovery, and banning water sales and supply to larger bottling companies.
Permitting Chilliwack water to be used for bottling "does not fit" with the water conservation philosophy, Gaetz said.
"Our water is reserved for local use by residential, institutional and business properties," she said.
Several recent inquiries at city hall have come from multinational corporations seeking to use Chilliwack water supply for bottling and export.
"While existing small-scale operations in Chilliwack are of limited impact, the proposed large-scale bottling operations would place significant strain on the City's water supply capacity," according to the staff report."
Existing smaller operations that use the city water supply, which do not significantly impact the aquifer, would be grandfathered in.
Additional sources for drinking water are still being investigated by city officials but the report makes it clear the capacity of the Sardis Vedder aquifer is "fixed" and therefore it's crucial to manage the resource wisely.
"A clause has been added to the Waterworks Bylaw banning the sale of City supplied water unless approved by the Engineer. Approval would require a proposal that demonstrates no impact on the water system or a net benefit to the City," reads the report.
Ian Stephen of WaterWealth Project said he wanted to thank Chilliwack council for protecting the aquifer, which got "frighteningly low" last summer.
"It is good to see the city taking measures to protect the award-winning drinking water residents rely on against large-scale bottling operations that could threaten long-term supply."
Waterworks bylaw changes approved on March 15 "take a responsible approach" to covering costs to manage city water infrastructure, Stephen said.
"They offer protection so far as they are able without entirely closing the door to considering proposals. Unfortunately the city's hands are tied beyond control over connections to city infrastructure."
In the end, council's resolution will mean that water and sanitary sewer fixed and metered user rates will increase by 1.89 per cent, in addition to the ban on supplying large water bottlers with tap water.