Time to end the corporate giveaway of Florida’s water | Editorial

orlando sentinel ginnie In: Time to end the corporate giveaway of Florida’s water | Editorial | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. | Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida
Kayaking at Ginnie Springs in High Springs (Photo: Shutterstock)

The Orlando Sentinel continues to educate the public about the permit renewal which will allow millions of gallons of water to be extracted from Ginnie Springs on the impaired and fragile Santa Fe River, officially “in recovery,” a term used to indicate inadequate flow quantity.

Drawing out millions of gallons will certainly impede recovery of the river.

The permit to pump will be held by Seven Springs Water which will  then sell the water to Nestle.   Yes, Nestle does pay Seven Springs for their water, so it is Seven Springs which gets the free water.  (a technicality only for the river, since it still gets drawn down.)

We could add that the low grade from Florida Springs Institute was also because of the excessive nitrate in the spring water.  Nestle has a problem here and in their Zephyrhills plant (Ginnie is 3.7 times over the Department of Environmental Protection [DEP] recommended maximun, and Zephyrhills is over 6 times the amount, which is  0.35 (mg/L).-source is Florida Springs Institute.  Nitrates sources for Ginnie Springs is agriculture 66% and septic tanks 6% (source DEP.)

Thanks to the Orlando Sentinel for the invitation and permission to re-publish their editorial.

Read the original article here in the Orlando Sentinel.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-


Time to end the corporate giveaway of Florida’s water | Editorial

Nestlé wants a permit to drain about a million gallons of water a day from the aquifer in North Florida. The company will use it to bottle and sell water under brand names like Deer Park and Zephyrhills.

This is an opportune time to remind everyone that Nestlé Waters North America will pay nothing for that water. Zero.

The same goes for water bottlers in other parts of the state, including Niagara Bottling. It got a permit back in 2014 to withdraw about 900,000 gallons a day of free groundwater in Lake County, which it also uses to bottle and sell. The request was spectacularly unpopular with the public, but regional water manager approved it anyway.

What does Florida gain from this? Local governments collect property taxes and the bottling companies provide some jobs.

That’s about all.

This state-sanctioned corporate freebie is distinct from other profit-making operations that extract Florida’s other natural resources, like oil, natural gas, sand, gravel and phosphate. They pay a tax for the privilege of using what Florida has. Water producers don’t.

(In fairness, we should acknowledge that Nestlé is required to pay a one-time permit application fee of $115 as a condition of getting more than 1 million gallons of free water per day for the next 20 years.)

The Nestlé permit shows two wells not far from Ginnie Springs, a lovely camping, swimming and diving spot north of Gainesville that flows into the Santa Fe River.

But all is not well with Ginnie, or the Santa Fe.

A report by the Howard T. Odum Springs Institute, which rated the overall health of Florida’s springs from A to F, gave Ginnie a D+. The low grade was due partly to the diminished flow of water from the spring.

The more water you pump from the aquifer, the less water emerges from a spring. Less water coming from springs means less water for rivers, which is one of the reasons the Santa Fe River’s water quality has degraded.

Officials with the state’s water management districts are quick to point out that water bottlers account for a tiny fraction of the water that can get sucked out of the aquifer each day.

For example, bottlers in the St. Johns River Water Management District are permitted to take up to 2.5 million gallons out of the ground each day. That’s a small fraction of the 1.3 billion gallons that public utilities, agriculture and industry are permitted to take each day.

Okay, but we’re fairly certain that water managers wouldn’t be equally receptive to that tiny fraction defense if a homeowner gets caught watering their lawn on a day they’re not supposed to. Every little bit counts and they know it, especially when that little bit amounts to a corporate giveaway.

If the state insists on allowing out-of-state companies to bottle our water and sell it for a profit across state lines, we ought to at least get paid for it.

In 2009, former Gov. Charlie Crist proposed a 6-cent severance tax on each gallon of water the bottling companies take from the ground. That perfectly reasonable idea went nowhere. Neither did a proposal to eliminate the sales tax exemption for bottled water.

To summarize, Florida doesn’t tax the producer for taking the water and doesn’t tax the consumer for buying it. It’s as if the state has an unlimited supply of water (it doesn’t).

Bottlers argue that water is necessary for life, therefore it should be treated differently. Water from a plastic bottle isn’t the only way to stay alive. The tap works just fine for most people in most circumstances.

It’s also much cheaper to buy and it doesn’t produce an empty plastic bottle that — more often than not these days — will end up in a landfill, where it’ll take 400 to 500 years to break down.

Florida is willfully allowing itself to get taken to the cleaners.

2 Comments

  1. Thank you for the article. People need to know what’s happening in our state that struggles daily with water issues. We have become so unbalanced at the top.

  2. I couldn’t agree more. Although I respect private enterprise,
    water is a PUBLIC resource, NOT a private commodity to be
    bought and sold on the open market! In order to bring the sale of water to bottling companies to a halt in a fair manner, I suggest a moratorium thereupon. No renewals of permits, and legislation (or constitutional amendment) forbidding all such future withdrawals of ground or surface waters for non-agricultural commercial purposes.

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