On August 20, 2014 at 09:40AM, jsq at WWALS Watershed Coalition published the following article:
Joseph Trento wrote for DC Bureau 20 July 2009,
Nestlé: Draining America Bottle By Bottle: How Nestlé Got Millions and Millions of Dollars From a $230 Permit.
Nestlé, like other large corporations, believes residents see
dollar signs when they hear a large corporation is coming to their
town. They often use local residents as straw men to keep the cost
of expansion cheaper, all the while extracting tax and water pumping
concessions by promising good paying jobs.
It’s a long story, but here’s the beginning of it:
The Swiss incursion of Nestlé into the State of Florida began with a
covert operation in 1989. Perrier Group of America, under a new
identity as Nestlé Waters North America and owned by Nestlé S.A of
Switzerland, began by buying a family-owned business in Crystal
Springs, Florida, called Zephyrhills. The Florida spring water now
bottled by the Swiss continues to be sold as the Zephyrhills brand.
That deal set a pattern for Nestlé . Despite all local objections,
the Southwest Florida Water Management District, locally known as
Swiftmud, a branch of the Florida Department of Environmental
Protection (DEP), granted a permit to the Swiss-American group.
The public was locked out of the natural springs as a recreation
site, raising a populist protest. Environmental watchdog
organizations, including Save Our Springs and Friends and Citizens
of Crystal Springs, opposed taking water from the spring, while the
city of Tampa objected to withdrawals from its drinking water
After their first Florida success, Nestlé executives turned their
attention to Madison’s precious Blue Springs. How the water that
feeds this state park got into the hands of a huge Swiss
conglomerate just as Florida faced a record drought and was in a
fight with Georgia over a water shortage is the story of Florida
politics, powerful lobbying and the smell of new money in a small
After Nestlé identified the spring as one they wanted to license,
the company took a multipronged approach. They used their powerful
lobby at the state and local level to carefully target water rights
owners, bureaucrats, politicians, and prominent people. Nestlé ,
like other mega-corporations, can be ruthless about cutting off
relations with influential local people once they are no longer
needed. Tommy Greene, the local newspaper publisher in Madison, and
an influential businessman, said, “I was hired and supposed to
help them with the local government here and in Tallahassee, but as
soon as they got what they wanted from Jeb Bush’s administration,
Nestlé cut me off.”
Fast-forward past the spring ending up owned by the state; see Madison Blue Spring State park.
The state gave Nestlé a permit, which it uses on its much larger lands nearby:
That’s not even all of Nestlé’s land; it owns several other parcels for several times as much total acreage.
This particular parcel as you can see has part of a large building on it, yet it’s listed as “Timberland” by the Madison County Property Appraiser.
Why does a foreign company get so many breaks to suck up local Floridan Aquifer water?
Onwards to the drought times of the 21st century:
In a memo obtained by the St. Petersburg Times dated Nov. 15, 2002,
“the water management district staff recommended reducing the
amount of water Nestlé could draw under the permit it would obtain
from 1.47-million gallons a day to 400,000 a day.” The
spring’s flow had been reduced from 55-million gallons day to just
34 million gallons a day. The St. Petersburg Times reported: “
The current drought has reduced the flow of Madison Blue Springs to
record lows,’ Jon Dinges, director of resource management, wrote to
the water management district’s governing board. “The drought has
become severe since the permit was issued, thus requiring a
reduction of the (average daily withdrawal) to ensure resource
But in January 2003 when it came before the regulators — all
appointed by Jeb Bush — they refused to follow water staff
recommendations after Nestlé threatened to reduce the size of the
plant it would build in Madison if their water allotment was reduced
from the Bruic allotment.
Enterprise Florida, the governor’s politically appointed business
development agency supported Nestlé’s argument at the meeting.
“We have been working with representatives of the company for
about two months, in trying to secure 300 jobs that will be present
at this facility upon build out,” Bridget Merrill of
Enterprise Florida told the board. “It is with certainty that
the company has to proceed.”
Just like Spectra Energy’s Andrea Grover says the Sabal Trail
fracked methane pipeline is “moving on”.
That would cross
the Withlacoochee River only a few miles south of Madison Blue Spring.
Jennifer Tanner at the Valdosta Daily Times wrote, “Blue
Spring Park in North Florida is a place frequented by Valdostans of
many ages. A half-hour drive south is worth the hours of fun to be
found in the cool water of the spring and the warm sun that shines
through the trees.” But Tommy Greene admits that the Blue
Springs, since it became a state park in 2005, is not the same deep
blue pool it was when he was a young man swimming there. “It’s
down by at least twenty feet.”
Some south Georgia residents are not complaining —with good
reason. Many of the 200 jobs provided by the company (fewer than
half the number originally promised in Madison and Lee, Florida)
went to people from Valdosta, boosting their per capita income and
Here’s more from that VDT article by Jennifer Tanner 8 April 2008,
Nestle expands; looks for more employees,
The spring is used for more than just outdoor entertainment —
it is the primary source of water used to make Nestle brand Deer
Park natural spring water.
Deer Park is sold in the southeastern regions of the United States.
It, along with Zephryhills, Nestle Pure Life and Nestle Pure Life
Splash, are all bottled at the Nestle Waters plant located on 202
contiguous acres of land in Madison County, Fla. Nestle owns more
than 800 total acres in the area with bore holes to gather water
from the spring. Water for Zephryhills is tankered in from other
So those are the brands.
Here’s the direct Valdosta connection:
Established in January of 2004, the plant recently went through an
extensive expansion to increase storage space by 140,000 square
feet, making the warehouse a total of 219,000 square feet. It will
also start a fifth production line, which will begin operation in
approximately two weeks.
The expansion will positively affect the Valdosta area. Not only
will more production add more supply for the Valdosta area, it will
add more employment opportunities. There is already a strong
concentration of employees from Lowndes County. New openings will
add more jobs, increase per capita income and strengthen the
Everybody’s for a strong local economy,
but what should we sell to get it?
The water that everything around here lives on?
And you can come see some other springs
and float by the proposed pipeline path
on the Withlacoochee River and the Suwannee River Sunday September 21st,
WWALS September Outing.
Another Florida county chose not to sell its water; see
Jefferson County, FL stopped Nestle; counties can stop Sabal Trail.