In 2013, community activist groups including the Water Watchers challenged an appeal by Nestlé Waters Canada, to the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal, to have certain conditions removed from a water-taking permit issued for water-bottling operations in the county. Unwilling to fight against the community pressure, Nestlé eventually withdrew its appeal. (For more on this, see related news reports by CBC News and EcoJustice.)

In Hope, B.C., where Nestlé Waters Canada also has water bottling operations, social movement organizations organized themselves to take aim at Nestlé’s operations there, drawing attention to the lack of regulation governing water use in that province. This advocacy work eventually contributed to the enactment of the province’s new Water Sustainability Act in late 2013.

In both cases, these policy wins were celebrated as significant victories for water activists, but they also raised questions remain concerning the continuing impact of these ‘wins’ on public attitudes about and grassroots involvement in the social movement organizations involved.

Using key informant interviews, community surveys, and a retrospective analysis of local and national news media, this project explored the similarities and differences in community responses to water mining for bottling by Nestlé Waters in Wellington County, Ontario, and the Fraser Valley, BC.

The aim of this project was to generate insights for organizers and scholars about community organization and mobilization from an analysis of community-based activism in these two communities.

Articles and other outputs:

Case, R. A., & Zeglen, L. (2018). Exploring the ebbs and flows of community engagement: The pyramid of engagement and water activism in two Canadian communities. Journal of Community Practice, 26(2), 184-203. doi:10.1080/10705422.2018.1449044[Full access, downloadable pdf]

Jaffee, D., & Case, R. A. (2018). Draining us dry: scarcity discourses in contention over bottled water extraction. Local Environment, 23(4), 485-­501. doi:10.1080/13549839.2018.1431616. [By subscription: Abstract and details here]

Community report #1. France, C., Metz, K., Zeglen, L., Seko, Y., & Case. (2015).Cultivating interest in Canada’s bottomless resource. What do people in Canadian communities care about when it comes to water?” (12 pages) [Full access, downloadable pdf]

  • The report highlights which water issues communities in Wellington County care about the most, and how they compare with other Canadian communities.

Community report #2. Pacheco, R., Zeglen, L., & Case, R. (2016).Is it even on the radar? What people in Canadian communities know about the work of local water activist organizations.” (11 pages) [Full access, downloadable pdf]

  • This second community report looks to answer the question: how much knowledge do people have about water activist organizations and campaigns in their community?

Community report #3. Pacheco, R., Zeglen, L., & Case, R. (2016). “Bridging the gap between interest and action: What does engagement in water activism look like in Canadian communities?” (11 pages) [Full access, downloadable pdf]

  • This report explores the ways in which individuals demonstrate their interest for water issues through their actions, and what key informants in local water activist organizations think motivates and deters people from becoming engaged in water activism.


Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC); Insight Development Grant (#430-2014-00866; June 2014-May 2017)

Research Assistants:

  • Laura Zeglen (Project Coordinator)
  • Jocelyn Kelly, Community Research Coordinator (Water Watchers, Guelph, ON)
  • Jackie Peat, Survey Research (Masters of Environmental Studies, York University
  • Siobhan Bonisteel Topping, Media Analyst (Masters of Environmental Studies, University of Waterloo)
  • Yukari Seko, Qualitative Analyst (Post Doctorate in Psychology, University of Guelph)
  • Chloe France, Research Apprentice (Social Development Studies, Renison University College)
  • Kelsey Metz, Research Apprentice (SDS Studies, Renison University College)
  • Rebecca Pacheco, Research Apprentice (SDS, Renison University College)


Project Partners


Principle Investigator:        

Dr. Robert A. Case, Associate Professor, Social Development Studies
Renison University College (Affiliated with University of Waterloo), Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
[email protected]; website