Skip to content

Water bottling debate continues

Merville resident says plenty of water in Aquifer 408

Scott MacKenzie says there is plenty of groundwater to support his contentious business proposal to extract, bottle and sell water from Aquifer 408 (Comox-Merville).

In a presentation to Courtenay council March 18, the Merville resident said the aquifer contains 34 trillion litres per year, but only 18 per cent of it is utilized.

“There is a lot of water, and it’s never going away,” MacKenzie said, drawing rumblings from some of the audience members. “The hydrological cycle fills that up every single year to capacity, and then the hydrostatic forces of nature push that through the confining layers out into the sea every single year.”

His intention has been to extract and bottle up to 10,000 litres of groundwater per day from his property’s well in Merville, and to sell five-gallon jugs by home delivery throughout the Valley. Area C residents worry about the effects on their local aquifer.

The Province had issued MacKenzie a licence to extract, but the CVRD rejected his application for a zoning amendment. He plans to truck water off site and bottle it at another location in the Strathcona Regional District.

MacKenzie says he will only sell water inside district boundaries, and won’t export out of the area.

Fellow Merville resident Bruce Gibbons, who founded the Merville Water Guardians, has asked council to implement a bylaw to prohibit water bottling in any zone in Courtenay,

At present, one company operates a bottling plant in Courtenay. Depending on the scale of the operator, City staff says there will be varying impacts on traffic and road infrastructure.

After MacKenzie’s presentation, council approved second reading of a zoning amendment to restrict water bottling as a use in all zones. A public meeting will be held before council considers third reading.

“I’m encouraged to hear the water would not be leaving the Comox Valley Regional District, and by all account British Columbia, but I think we need to have more public input on this before we can make a decision,” Coun. Will Cole-Hamilton said.

The public meeting will be held in May at a site to be determined. Council chambers is expected to be too small.

About 150 people attended a public hearing about the issue last summer at the Filberg Centre.