Nestlé Waters is trying to take an astounding 1.1 million gallons of water per day from Ginnie Springs and the Santa Fe River in Florida, as first reported by the Guardian. Local conservationists are afraid that the corporate giant will disrupt the natural habitat of turtles that live in the bank. They’re also afraid that the river is simply too frail to survive all of this, as it’s already been designed as “in recovery” from being over-pumped in the past.
Perhaps the biggest, most glaring issue? That a corporate giant wants to take publicly owned water and… sell it back to the public. Yikes.
How does this work? Basically, the Florida Water Resources Act says that all of the water in the springs (as well as the rivers and lakes) is state property. However, it never established a price for the water. So while taxpayers pay into resources that, for example, restore the spring from over-pumping, companies like Nestle are able to take state water without paying for it.
Of course, in a statement on its website, Nestlé sings to a different tune:
“Springwater is a rapidly renewable resource when managed correctly. Nestlé Waters North America is committed to the highest level of sustainable spring water management at all of the springs we manage,” Nestlé Waters North America explains in a written statement. “We have worked to be a good neighbor in Florida for decades. Our commitment goes beyond just caring about the water. We value our relationships with Florida residents and community leaders, and always strive to create shared value within the communities where we operate.”
Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, a member of the Our Sante Fe River conservation group, told the Guardian she isn’t buying it.
“The Santa Fe River is already in decline… there’s not enough water coming out of the aquifer itself to recharge these lovely, amazing springs that are iconic and culturally valued and important for natural systems and habitats,” she explained. “It’s impossible to withdraw millions of gallons of water and not have an impact. If you take any amount of water out of a glass you will always have less.”
In the big picture, it’s obscene that many people in the United States (and the world) don’t have affordable access to clean water. Water that comes from your tap should be safe to drink and wash your dishes (and yourself!) with. When people need to not only spend money on bottled water, but also go out and buy it, clean water access becomes not only an affordability issue but an accessibility one.
Of course, there’s the obvious irony that bottled water is inherently terrible for the environment. So what will a big corporation do? Take water from a struggling eco-system, bottle it in plastic, and sell it back to the public, apparently. Sigh.
At this point, Nestlé’s plan is still a proposal, so conservationists are hoping the corporation’s permit is denied.