Monday, May 15, 2017 




Waterwealth bows out of Molson brewery conflict presenting a watered down version of usage

Ian Stephen, Waterwealth


Ian Stephen in November 2016 at City Hall council chambers in pipeline squabble. Below, a glass of water at City Hall.


here are multiple factors to the decision to not engage on the Molson-Coors plant. Significant among them is that the city modified bylaws not long ago in response to water bottling companies expressing interest in connecting to the city supply.

It was the volumes of water those companies were talking about that prompted the city to effectively ban water bottling from the city (of the sort like Nestle and Vancouver Water do, not the office water cooler type shops which are much smaller scale). Having seen that, I'm having faith in the City's assurance that they considered the volume Molson's will use and found it acceptable within the city's water system capacity and future growth plans.

There is also that the water use is non-destructive. What water doesn't end up in the product itself ends up in the city sewer system and into the Fraser so is not removed from the local water cycle. The aquifer flows to the Fraser too. I don't know what percent of the bottled product will be distributed locally. Presumably it is significant.

There's also WaterWealth's capacity to take stuff on, and where to use that capacity. The pipeline is #1 presently because of the potentially catastrophic harm those pipelines could do to the aquifer or to the Vedder River and adjacent salmon spawning grounds and Blue Heron Nature Reserve, that the NEB detailed route process is the only chance we'll have to do anything about it, and that the deadline for statements of opposition was May 7.

The work we've done so far on the pipeline completely consumed my time and the bulk of available volunteer time, and we did well in that phase of the process. Latest numbers I have show 346 statements of opposition total. Of those 323 are from BC with 176 from Chilliwack including letters from the City, the Chamber of Commerce, and Ts'elxweyeqw Tribe.

Kinfer Morgan pipeline protestors at Five Corners July 2014.

The next largest chunk of statements came from Burnaby with 103. There the city and the MP were actively promoting opposition and the MP even had an online tool to make it easy for people to do.

In our work in Chilliwack we found that people were consistently concerned about the project, but deterred from engaging by the complexity of the process. For example, the NEB efile system did not include Trans Mountain in the list of projects and did not include "statement of opposition" in the list of document types to file. Chilliwack residents were grateful to have our volunteers answer questions and assist with the process. Still lots of work to do on that as we prepare for hearings.

The next priority is the Water Sustainability Act (WSA). I really regret not having been able to make that an issue in the election, but the pipeline work left us with no capacity to engage in the election beyond the one all candidates meeting we partnered in hosting. WSA has the potential to make a difference for water use all over the province, so even if we were not to accept the City's assurance that Molson's water use fits within City planning I think our priority would have to be WSA.

There are so many water issues and local problems all over the province. Tackling individual projects is kind of a whack-a-mole game. It takes a ton of work to tackle those sort of things and even if you win every time (which of course doesn't happen) it doesn't address the underlying systems that make those whack-a-mole campaigns necessary.

WSA has the potential to change how we evaluate projects province-wide, and it has the potential to create a floor to our water use that ensures sufficient water is left for ecological function throughout the province.

So, fingers crossed that the Molson facility winds up ok. In the current water regulatory setting it's perhaps a good thing Molson's is connecting to the city supply. They'll pay about $450.00 per million litres to the city according to the city water bylaws and their use can be regulated by the city. Had they chosen to build in a location where they would have their own well they could have got a 30-year licence from the province at $2.25 per million litres, and having their own licence rather than buying water from the city, it would have been much more difficult to address if any problems arose and the company chose not to cooperate in finding solutions.

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