Supermarket display of plastic Big 8 "spring water" in bottles with their blue and white labels, and price label in yellow saying "So local" and the price $3.79 for plastic bundles of 24 bottles.

This is the first of a two-part series looking at bottled water from Nova Scotia’s underground, how much the province charges for it, and the real value of fresh water in the midst of a climate crisis. This article looks at the withdrawal of large amounts of groundwater in Colchester County by two large corporations, and at municipal efforts to benefit from those operations. This article was first published by the Halifax Examiner on January 2, 2024.

Every year, two corporations withdraw hundreds of millions of litres of groundwater from wells in Colchester County. They bottle the water – said to be “pristine” and “some of the purest water in Canada – and sell it far and wide, even internationally, as “spring water.”

The two corporations are Empire Company that owns Sobeys, which owns Big 8 Beverages, and Primo Water Corporation, which owns Aquaterra that in turn owns Canadian Springs.

It’s impossible to know how much those two corporations make from sales of that water.

And as of this writing, the Halifax Examiner has not yet been able to find out how much water Big 8 and Canadian Springs actually withdraw every year from their wells, which are tucked away on rural roads east of Truro in Colchester County.

Satellite image from Google Maps showing networks of suburban neighbourhood roads in eastern Truro and to the east of Truro, with the Salmon River visible and tracing a course from the upper right of the photo to the lower left corner. While some landmarks such as Tim Hortons and Home Hardware and Foodland locations are marked on Google maps, of note in this screenshot are two yellow circles with stars in them that mark the locations of the Big 8 and Canadian Springs well sites east of Truro.

Google Maps screenshot showing the locations – with yellow circles – of the well sites for Big 8 (owned by Sobeys that is part of the Empire Company) and Canadian Springs (owned by Aquaterra, that is part of the Primo Water Corp) east of Truro, NS.

Canadian Springs hasn’t responded to any of our questions, despite two emails and one phone call that was shunted to “corporate,” where the line went dead.

A Sobeys spokesperson did reply to some emailed questions, but didn’t answer the question of how much water the company withdraws in Colchester County.

We do know, however, how much Sobeys and Primo Water pay the municipality of Colchester for water that comes from the county, and “one of the purest aquifers in Canada.”

Absolutely nothing. Not one penny. Continue reading Nova Scotia is practically giving away ‘some of the purest water in Canada’

Part 1: Each year, Sobeys and Aquaterra pump hundreds of millions of lites of water from wells in Nova Scotia and bottle and sell it in grocery stores for potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in sales. For that water, the province charges the two companies a total of $769.

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