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Stakeholder perspectives and the bottled water conundrum: A case study in Wellington County, Ontario

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Title: Stakeholder perspectives and the bottled water conundrum: A case study in Wellington County, Ontario
Author: Li, Xinyue (Jenny)
Department: School of Environmental Design and Rural Development
Program: Rural Planning and Development
Advisor: Longboat, Sheri
Abstract: Groundwater is a fundamental resource that provides the basis for drinking, agricultural and farming activities, industrial and municipal uses. In Canada, approximately one-quarter of the population depends on groundwater and uses it on a daily basis (Government of Canada, 2013). Since groundwater is not visible and is buried underground, most people do not have a clear understanding of the value of the resource. One of the most devastating water tragedies occurred in 2000 in Walkerton, Ontario. Water from the municipal well became contaminated by E coli, which caused severe illness for thousands and even death for seven residents living in the community. Although people may not always use groundwater directly for drinking water, it is also important to ensure water is protected from contaminations that leak into rivers and lakes (Government of Canada, 2013). In recent years, there have been emerging controversies associated with groundwater protection and extraction by private water bottling companies. Different issues around bottled water include environmental concerns around plastic water bottle disposal; low costs to private companies for withdrawal permits (e.g.$3.41 per million litres); the quantity of groundwater extraction; and the need for education and scientific analysis to understand groundwater quality and quantity. This research study examines the issue of groundwater extraction for water bottling in Wellington County, Ontario through literature and document review by analyzing different stakeholder perspectives. It also examines how different stakeholders influence water policy in Ontario. The results indicate that stakeholders with two or more of the attributes power, urgency and legitimacy have a major influence on policy change and the decision-making process. These stakeholders include the provincial government, local municipalities, non-governmental organizations, Six Nations as well as private firm and association. Respectively, the development of new regulations and rules on Permit to Take Water for bottled water considers and incorporates the above stakeholders' perspective and concerns. To summarize, the recommendations are based on the analysis of key stakeholder perspectives that include: the consideration of plastic bottle recycling and waste management approaches, establish various consultation methods, consideration of other water users, further research on surface water taking, protecting the watershed, education future generation on the importance of groundwater and incorporate land use planning in managing groundwater in the local context.
Date: 2018
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