02/20/2015 04:12 EST | Updated 04/22/2015 05:59 EDT

Nestlé B.C. water deal too cheap, says NDP

The B.C. government is standing by new regulations that will make companies pay a small amount to access the province's ground water, despite criticism from the Opposition.

Under the new Water Sustainability Act, starting in 2016, corporations will be charged $2.25 for every one million litres of water they extract.

"They think that $2.25 is a good value for a million litres. It doesn't seem quite right to me," NDP environment critic Spencer Chandra-Herbert told The Early Edition's Rick Cluff.

"I think we need better value for it so people can actually then use that money for environmental protection or water conservation."

But B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak told Cluff the charge is a fee to access the water, not the cost of the water itself, which is free.

"We don't sell the water. We never have in British Columbia," she said. 

"If you create water as a commodity for government — as a revenue stream — imagine what that does to conservation."

Meanwhile, an online petition opposing the new regulations has received more than 40,000 signatures, saying companies like Nestlé Waters Canada — which operates a bottling plant in Hope, B.C. — should pay more to access the province's resources.

"If there's no cost to it, quite often it will get wasted," said Chandra-Herbert.

"If you're going to turn around and make millions through the sale of it, we need to put a price on it so we can pile that money back into conserving water."

To hear the full interview with NDP environment critic Spencer Chandra-Herbert and Environment Minister Mary Polak, click the audio labelled: Water Sustainability Act faces opposition.