Monthly Archives: October 2016

What Ontario needs to do about the Water Bottling System

bottThe water bottling industry has been taking a lot of heat in Ontario lately.  Residents in Guelph have been fighting Nestle’s application to renew it’s permit to draw 3.6 million litres of groundwater a day from Aberfoyle. In September it was reported that Nestle had outbid a small municipality for the rights to another well in the area….combine this with water bottlers only pay $3.71 for a million liters of water and people get outraged.

Premier Kathleen Wynne has recognized there is an issue and has vowed to fix it. If Ontario is serious about fixing the situation with water bottlers here are some things to consider doing.bott1

The province needs to monitor groundwater supplies that the communities rely on. Water is a renewable resource, but only up to a point. In Guelph there is a dispute about groundwater depletion or not. Nestle says their operation ia sustainable and the aquifer is ok. A local environmental group disagrees and says the aquifer has dropped 1.5 meters. We should not be relying on either one of these groups for providing accurate information on the aquifer. The province needs to monitor the situation itself.

The province should establish clear guidelines for water priorization. When demands exceed supply who gets the water? Community needs for water must be protected. Where should agriculture fit in? How about industries that use the water then return it after it is treated? Water bottlers who take the water and ship it out for consumption?bott3

Raise the fees considerably. Water can be sold for over a dollar a liter, but bottlers pay $3.71 per million liters. A 250,000 times mark up. bott2

Lastly, plastic, plastic, plastic. One billion bottles of plastic are not recycled every year. Half of these bottles are water bottles. How about a deposit on the the bottles. Ontario is one of two provinces without a deposit on plastic bottles. It is time for a change.


Surfing Swans??


We all know birds can fly, swim and walk…but surf?

From Sweden we have reports of the Mute Swan occasionally opening up their wings to catch the wind and windsurfing across the water. These swans have been witnessed in several areas in Sweden to use this technique to travel fairly quickly over distances as great as several hundred meters.


The reason the Mute Swan has developed this ability is because it is the heaviest bird that still flies. From 10-12kg or 22-26lbs this bird requires a lot of energy to move or fly around…and so in order to save energy it windsurfs. They can move at 2 swan lengths per second or 1.3 meters .


…and not to be outdone what about these Black Swans in Australia, straight up surfers!


Arctic Sea Ice

1On September 10, 2016 the Arctic sea ice reached it’s annual lowest extent according to NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Satellites have been monitoring the sea ice since 1978 and every year have noted a reduction in it’s mass. An analysis of the data reveals the minimum extent for 2016 to be 4.14 million sq kilometres which ties the minimum for 2007.

polar-bThe sea ice cover and the surrounding area helps regulate the planet’s temperature, influences circulation of the atmosphere and ocean, and impacts Arctic communities and ecosystems. The ice cover grows in winter and shrinks in the summer.


This years melt was marked by the pace changing a few times  due to atmospheric pressure, storms, and cloud cover. once upon a time there was more old sea ice that was less affected by weather factors…but now the ice is more jumbled up. Decades ago the melt period would end as the sun starts setting in mid August. Now late summer weather systems can extend the melt. There has not been a record high in sea ice seen since 1986, but during that time there have been 75 monthly lows. arctic

The record shows that it is not just in September that we are loosing sea ice, the ice is not rebounding to where it once was even in winter.


Rick’s Rant on Nestle Water

A few weeks ago we looked at the situation where Nestle is getting water from southwestern Ontario. This is a follow up to that blog.  A great Canadian strength is our abundance of water, we have 1/5 of all the fresh water on planet earth. Our water is a significant resource that companies like Nestle are able to suck out of the ground at $3.71 per million litres , put it in plastic bottles, and charge big bucks for it.

Why is this allowed?

I hope you enjoy Rick’s Rant.





Introducing the Water Seer

The Water Seer is a new device that promises to provide 11 gallons of safe drinking water per day without an external power source. This device relies on simple condensation to collect clean water from the atmosphere. This amazing new device can potentially run forever as it is powered by a simple wind turbine, giving fresh water to generations of people who live in a harsh climate or lack of infrastructure makes access to fresh water a big problem.

The Water Seer is planted with the base 6 or more feet below the surface, the earth is then packed around it’s metal neck. The top of the Water Seer holds a vertical wind turbine which spins internal fan blades that draw air into the subterranean chamber. By being 6 ft or more into the ground the chamber is cooled by the surrounding earth….and water condenses in the reservoir to create sort of a artificial well which drinking water can be drawn from.seer

2.3 million people on Earth lack regular access to safe drinking water. Here is a low cost device that can collect up to 11 gallons of water a day. If several of the Water Seer units were installed in an area they could supply a small village. The device has already been tested as a prototype, and the latest model finalized in August of 2016.

Sounds like a great new technology that could affect the lives of many people for the better.



Ottawa: Proposed Water Rate Changes…

stormwater5Ottawa is getting a look at the proposed water, waste water, and storm water rates before they come up for debate at city hall.

The proposed changes will see rural homes with private wells and sewer pay $1 a month…gradually moving up to $4 a month in 2020. The new rate structure is being released so the public can see it before it comes before the councillors. stormwater-pic

The full documents are available online for review. Time is being set aside at the October 18th environmental committee meeting for the public to share their views. ground water pump

In March and April public consultations were held, it was in rural communities that this issue has been most controversial. The proposals would have rural residents contribute to storm water infrastructure costs. What was proposed is charging a fixed rate in addition to the rate based water consumption fees used currently and creating a separate storm water fee for property owners that do not pay for water services at this time.

Quite a few residents have voiced their displeasure at this structure. Ottawa City Council Chamber

Residents can register to speak as public delegations at the October 18th, committee meeting. , where councillors will discuss the staff report. To register to speak for up to 5 minutes on the topic residents must preregister with Christopher Zwierzchowski at

Let your voice be heard. For more details on the rate structure and a draft of the report go to

Microplastics Survey in the Great Lakes Basin.

sailing2An all female sailing expedition sets out to survey microplastics  as part of the world’s largest simultaneous sampling of plastics in the Great Lakes Basin. Sevent teams are sailing on each of the Great Lakes, including the St. Lawrence and St. Clair rivers. This event is part of a global, female led initiative known as eXXpedition. The event is also supported by over 1,000 citizen scientists from Canada and the US who will take water samples as part of the study.sailing

Microplastics is a term used to describe small pieces of broken down plastic less than 5mm in diameter which enter the water as litter, in wastewater, or as accidental loss of industrial material in transport, and other means. Microplastics have been noted in our waters since the 70’s, but their impact on fish  and birds, and their overall effect on the marine environment is a more recent finding.sailing1

A 2015 study from the U of Waterloo showed at least a half million pieces of plastic per square kilometre. Another recent study done by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change found 6.7 million particles per square kilometre in Humber Bay off Toronto.sailing4

One of the key challenges with microplastics is that through fish and birds these plastics enter the food chain…and so does the toxins associated with plastics. Many of these toxins have been linked to cancers, birth defects, immune system problems, and childhood developmental issues in humans.


In June 2016 the federal  government listed microbeads as a toxic substance…enabling a future ban.

Initiatives like the Great Lakes eXXpedition show that citizens can play a important role in filling knowledge gaps and fostering solutions. Leaders in such diverse areas like aquatic toxicology, food security, biology, and social activism can get together in a supportive spirit.sailing-3

To learn more about the global microplastics study, visit…

To find out how you can get involved, visit…