07/13/2015 01:29 EDT | Updated 07/13/2016 05:59 EDT

Nestlé Should Not Be Charged More For B.C. Water, Urges Former MLA Judi Tyabji

"The minute the B.C. government... starts charging for water from aquifers for the use based on volume without providing infrastructure we can't turn it off."

Public dissent against Nestlé continues to grow over the multinational companies usage and bottling of B.C. groundwater.

An online petition asking the B.C. government to charge Nestlé "a fair price for our most precious resource" reached 218,884 signatures on Monday morning, just 1,116 names short of its goal.

But former Liberal MLA Judy Tyabji says members of public who have signed the petition have a misunderstanding of what is at stake.

"The minute the B.C. government...starts charging for water from aquifers for the use based on volume without providing infrastructure we can't turn it off," she told the Early Edition's Rick Cluff.

Tyabji, the president of the Pebble In the Pond Environmental Society — a community group dedicated to the reduction of plastic garbage waste — says her primary concern is that the public outcry to charge Nestlé a higher price for the use of B.C. water will lead to a restructuring of the current water regulations.

In a Facebook post sent on July 11, Tyabji called into question the demands made by the petition.

"Do NOT demand that the province charge Nestlé money, unless you want to open the door to massive water sales in BC," she wrote.

Her post, which has received over 4,000 likes and over 15,000 shares urges the public to question what the stipulation for such a request would have. "[Y]ou are lobbying our government to turn our water into a commodity for sale."

B.C. government content with regulations

Currently, companies such as Nestlé are able to access water from B.C. for free. Regulations set to be in place starting in 2016 will see Nestlé charged $2.25 to bottle a million litres of water.

B.C.'s Environment Minister Mary Polak says that charge is simply an access fee and not a cost of sale for the resource.

"We will never sell that right of ownership. We will allow access but it is tightly controlled."

Tyabji says it is that charge that has led to much misunderstanding from the public.

"A lot of people gets confused because they pay for metered water in a municipality. That's because it's costing local government to deliver the water… If we start charging a fair price, there's no questions Nestlé will say 'we're going to court to say they've sold it to us and lock them in.'"

She acknowledges that while it may not be the popular choice for many, the government is ultimately best left to decide how water usage by industries are dealt with in the province.

"We have to trust that this provincial government has protected our interest in water. The provincial administration has protected us under these trade deals for decades [so] they have to decide what's a fair price."

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