Bottled water is a gigantic marketing con job and an ecological calamity.

tom palmer In: Bottled water is a gigantic marketing con job and an ecological calamity. | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. | Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida
Tom Palmer

One of the hottest debates over water allocation in Florida involves multinational corporation Nestle’s application to pump water out of Ginnie Spring near Gainesville.

The issue is scheduled to come before the Suwanee River Water Management District’s Governing Board later this month.

The permit seeks to withdraw 1.152 million gallons a day and pipe it to a bottled water plant.

Defenders of this and other bottled water permits correctly point out that on the scale of water permits issued in Florida, this one is pretty small potatoes.

But that’s really beside the point.

The real point is whether bottled water really meets the “three-prong test” outlined in Florida law. The three criteria are whether the use is “reasonable and beneficial,” whether it is in the public interest and whether it will affect other users or natural water bodies.

Bottled water is a gigantic marketing con job and an ecological calamity. It is really hard to argue with a straight face that it’s in the public interest or it’s reasonable and beneficial to anyone except the applicant.

Unless the well that’s the source of your water supply is contaminated, bottled water is unnecessary.

In addition, the single-use plastic bottles that contain the water are a significant source of the plastic pollution that is plaguing the environment. Many communities are trying to ban single-use plastic containers.

There are plenty of alternative, reusable containers you can use if you need to carry water with you to allow you to remain properly hydrated.

The original permitting rules were written to bring some order to water consumption in this state and set some kind of limits. Up until the 1970s, it was a largely unregulated enterprise.

Also, the extent of the exploitation of the public’s water resources has been gradually reworded to make it seem less than what it is. What were once honestly referred to as consumptive-use permits are now simply water-use permits.

I’d add that when the original permitting rules were written, Florida was not at its sustainable limit of water consumption from the Floridan aquifer as it is today. These days, utilities are seriously talking about treating sewage enough to allow it to be reused as drinking water. That option wasn’t even on the table 40 years ago.

Meanwhile, efforts to move water policy in another direction with regard to this kind of resource exploitation have been bottled up, so to speak, in the Florida Legislature.

A proposal to impose a 5-cent-per-gallon surcharge on bottled water permits to raise funds for the state’s Water Protection and Sustainability Project Trust Fund, which has received no funding since 2009, is going nowhere.

The trust fund can be used for projects ranging from developing alternative water supplies to helping small communities finance water projects.

In addition, legislation is advancing that would ban any local charter amendments or other actions that would bestow legal standing to water bodies. This approach has been considered to protect the Santa Fe River, which is fed in part by water from Ginnie Springs.

Meanwhile, Florida’s springs face increasing threats from pollution and overpumping. Approving Nestle’s permit will make things worse.

Read Tom Palmer’s blog at www.ancientislands. org/conservation.