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Students spend money on bottled water enough to pay for courses

Students buy water from the cafeteria instead of bringing their own bottles

Students shelled out around $78,120 in bottled water at the college cafeteria in the past year. Photo: Amanda Poole
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Reported by Amanda Poole and Nikitha Martins

Langara students are spending tens of thousands of dollars buying bottled water while the manufacturer is getting it from the province for free.

Students shelled out around $78,120 in bottled water at the college cafeteria in the past year – enough to pay for over 800 course credits – instead of bringing their own bottles, according to college numbers.

The Province’s Water Sustainability Act came into force on February 29, 2016, and the B.C. government allowed the commercial groundwater users such as Nestlé a three-year transition period to prepare and submit their applications and annual rentals.

Even once the Act is in effect, water companies will pay only $2.25 for every million liters they pump.

A report by the Council of Canadians claims Nestlé, for example, draws 265 million liters from the Kawkawa aquifer in Hope every year – and would pay about $596.25 under the new rules.

Selling that much water at two dollars a half-litre bottle would get the company over a billion dollars in revenue.

Nestlé’s Director of Corporate Affairs, Jennifer Kerr, wouldn’t comment on the company’s profits.

“[Nestlé extracts] less than 1% of the available water in the aquifer,” she said. “We do an extensive amount of monitoring to ensure that anything we take out of the aquifer system is taken in a sustainable manner.”

But B.C. shouldn’t focus on the profits to be had, said the B.C. Green Party’s Sonia Furstenau.

On the one hand, there is a real cost to distributing the water, and on the other, if the province charges too much, there’s a profit incentive to harvest even more water than is being bottled already, she said.

“Commercializing water is problematic and dangerous,” she said.

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