“But the board really needs to base its decision on what is in the public interest for our region: protecting our water supply and springs, not allowing more of that water to be bottled to benefit a private company.”
Even though they may be challenged when spelling the Santa Fe River, the Gainesville Sun is dead nuts on with their conclusion.
Nestle representatives met with the editorial board to make their case, but it appears they failed, as we see in this fine editorial.
We must say here that everyone who enjoys our springs and rivers in North Florida owes a debt of gratitude to the Nathan Crabbe and the Gainesville Sun for their constant work in protecting our resources, and for researching environmental issues. They are doing the work of our water management agencies and the DEP and they are telling the truth about our real water problems and not just seeking to apply band aids.
It seems that Nestle is feeling the pressure; let’s keep it up.
And rightly so…
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
Editorial: Protect water supply from more bottling
The Suwannee River Water Management District needs to protect our region’s water supply and springs, not allow more of that water to be bottled to benefit a private company.
The Sante [SIC.] Fe River and the springs flowing into it are already beyond the point of environmental harm due to excessive groundwater pumping.
Now the biggest food company in the world, Nestlé, wants to use even more of that groundwater to supply its growing water-bottling plant near High Springs.
It is up to the Suwannee River Water Management District to determine what is more in the public good: increasing the profits of an international corporation, or protecting the aquifer, springs and river from further harm.
With the issue attracting international attention and outrage, Nestlé officials met with The Sun last month to make their case. They argue that withdrawing up to 1.152 million gallons of groundwater per day would have only a slight impact on nearby wetlands and Ginnie Springs — less than an inch of potential draw-down, according to their study.
The permit had allowed that same amount of groundwater to be pumped in the past, but the amount actually withdrawn didn’t exceed 270,000 gallons per day in recent years. The permit’s renewal is being sought by Seven Springs Water Company, which only pays a $115 one-time permit fee to the state and gets an undisclosed amount from Nestlé for the water.
Nestlé bought the High Springs bottling plant in December and is spending more than $40 million to renovate and expand the facility, where water for its Zephyrhills brand is bottled. George Ring, natural resource manager for Nestlé Waters North America, rejected a distinction between municipalities supplying the public with drinking water and a private company bottling it for sale.
“You can say it’s not for the public good, but I would say that that’s not the case because you have a demand for this product — a serious demand for the product, and that’s not Nestlé forcing it on people, it’s our good consumers that choose this product,” Ring said.
Satisfying consumer demand for bottled water shouldn’t be given greater importance than protecting our region’s water supply and environment. The water management district itself determined in 2014 that the Sante [SIC.] Fe was beyond the point of significant harm due to excessive groundwater pumping reducing the flow from the springs feeding it.
Certainly the district deserves blame for continuing to issue water-withdrawal permits since that time, some for agricultural operations using more water than what is being sought for the bottling plant. But the district shouldn’t compound that mistake by allowing the groundwater supply to be further depleted by more than a million gallons per day for water bottling, which unlike farming doesn’t return any water to the ground.
Tens of thousands of people worldwide have signed petitions opposing the water-withdrawal permit, which are set to be delivered to the district’s board at its Dec. 10 meeting. But the board really needs to base its decision on what is in the public interest for our region: protecting our water supply and springs, not allowing more of that water to be bottled to benefit a private company.