Residents packed the CVRD’s boardroom at a committee meeting in March to protest a proposed water bottling operation in the Merville area. File photo/Comox Valley Record

Campbell River area wants Island united against commercial water extraction

Strathcona Regional District pushing to block for-profit water extraction and bottling

If the proponent of a water bottling operation north of Courtenay is looking north for a new site, he might need to look a little farther.

Merville’s Christopher Scott MacKenzie and his wife were apparently already looking north to the Strathcona Regional District after the Comox Valley Regional District turned down his application in August, but he might have a tough time getting buy-in.

Not only is the SRD opposed to the idea of commercial groundwater extraction on principle, it wants the rest of the Island to join it in that stance.

RELATED STORY: Comox Valley Regional District defeats Merville water bottling operation application

Area C Director Jim Abram said the region cannot afford to allow commercial proposals for the extraction of water because of the need for communities to protect groundwater in a time of climate change and threats to water supply.

“It’s something that we should absolutely oppose,” he said. “This is just insane, so I’d hope that everybody will just not support this,” he said.

SRD directors tackled the issue in general rather than any specific business request on Oct. 25 after a letter from Merville resident Gillian Anderson, who wanted to call attention to the proposal. Area D Director Brenda Leigh said she does not support the idea of licences for the extraction of groundwater anywhere on Vancouver Island for commercial purposes such as water bottling, bulk water export or private sales.

“Water is a human right and a necessity for all life. When any corporate entity tries to commodify it and sell it for profit, it is a threat to our common, public right to water, and we have seen the results of this around the world when private corporations get control of public water sources,” she said.

Leigh successfully made a motion to contact the premier and the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources and Rural Development to advise them the SRD does not support approvals of licenses for the extraction of groundwater anywhere from aquifers on Vancouver Island to be sold for commercial purposes. The board also passed her motion to bring attention to the issue at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) and the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC).

Leigh had attended the CVRD public hearing and heard strong opposition from residents of the area, who felt their groundwater was potentially threatened by the proposed bottling operation on Sackville Road.

“It was an overwhelming ‘no, you can’t take this water for our aquifer,’” she said.

Leigh also pointed out to the SRD board the licence was contingent upon the CVRD approving the bottling plant on site.

“Now he’s trying to split off the water bottling plant and take it somewhere into our regional district but still relying on the Sackville Road aquifer,” she said.

Leigh reiterated the proposal would still negatively impact the residents of the Merville area.

“We can’t allow this,” she said. “This is a public resource.”

Ron Kerr, one of the Campbell River directors on the board, worried the motion might be too restrictive in that it might also cover a brewery or juice company that might want to open a business requiring water. Abram responded that the motion simply covers bulk water export and sales.

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