Protecting the province’s groundwater

A bottled water company in southern California carefully manages its natural spring water source

By Kate Ayers
Staff Writer
Better Farming

Ontario residents are fortunate to have access to fresh and clean drinking water. In total, 99.8 per cent of municipal residential drinking water system samples met the province’s strict quality standards, recent test results released by the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks showed.

While these results are impressive, the province and other stakeholders must maintain groundwater protection as a top priority as we face more extreme weather conditions caused by climate change.

Indeed, droughty conditions over the past few years have some Ontarians worried about bottled water companies’ use of groundwater. Some Californians share a similar concern.

In 2015, the state had 110 water bottling plants, a CNN Business article said. Some people were outraged that residents had to cut back on their water usage, but local or state officials did not ask water bottling companies to do the same.

And the state’s water problems have intensified. The U.S. Drought Monitor began collecting soil moisture data in 2000. California has experienced its longest drought ever recorded, which began on Dec. 27, 2011, the department reported. As of Feb. 26, 2019, the drought has lasted 375 weeks, the U.S. Drought Portal said.

In response to the prolonged drought, the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) ensures that water bottling companies are committed to responsible and efficient use of their water sources, the association’s website said.

In California, water bottling facilities use only 0.02 per cent of all the water consumed in the state annually, IBWA said. The state’s three main water uses are irrigation (64 per cent), thermoelectric power generation (18 per cent) and public supply (11 per cent), IBWA said.

Bottled water companies in the state realize the importance of this resource and are committed to sustainable use, representatives said.

The spring water is “our business, so we have to make sure to maintain those (sources) and take care of what we have in the spring,” Conrad Pawelski, the chief finance officer and principal manager of Palomar Mountain Premium Spring Water, said to Better Farming.

The company must address “any issues caused by third-party influences or pollution. … And make sure we don’t draw down our spring to the point where we don’t have any water flowing from it.”

Palomar Mountain Valley
    Ron_Thomas/E+ photo

Palomar Mountain is in San Diego County, Calif. The spring is about 65 miles (104.7 km) north of the U.S.-Mexico border. Area residents established Palomar Mountain Spring Water in 1985 and created a system to deliver water from the spring to homes and businesses in the county, the company website said. Eric de Jong bought the brand and distribution facility in 2005.

As part of its responsible management, Palomar reduces its draw from the spring source when water levels start to drop.

“Sustained drought has had (some) impact on our business as it causes groundwater changes,” Pawelski said.

Fortunately, “the changes to the spring have been minimal, despite the prolonged drought.”

Palomar Mountain Premium Spring Water is in the desert, so the company does not face competition from other industries like agriculture. Pawelski is also not aware of any recent restrictions placed on bottled water companies because of the drought.

Nonetheless, the bottled water industry must ensure continued responsible water use to balance the needs of state residents and water-taking industries.

More facts on California’s bottled water industry can be found here. BF

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