On January 8th, 2019 Nestlé Waters North America acquired a bottling facility in High Springs, Florida. The 300,000 square foot facility became the third Nestlé manufacturing location in Florida, including its operations in Madison and Pasco counties.
An August request for a new permit to withdraw water from Ginnie Springs in Gilchrist County has led to opposition from environmentalists. Nestlé has requested a permit allowing it to pump a maximum of 1.152 million gallons of water a day from the springs for bottling. Nestlé pays nothing for the water.
The current permit holder, Seven Springs, has never drawn more than 260,000 gallons per day, but Nestlé has invested heavily in a new bottling plant so it can draw as much water as possible.
Nestlé is one of several companies that draw water from Florida’s springs. They pay fees for the permits, but the water itself is free. Officials contend water is free to everyone in Florida and that the charges from municipal utilities are to offset the cost of pumps and pipes to provide the water.
“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 said in a written statement posted on its website. “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.”
Spring flows have been impacted across the region by increased pumping of the aquifer to handle the booming population, particularly on the Atlantic coast. White Springs, for instance, is largely dry after once being a thriving tourist spot.
The springs belong to the Santa Fe River, which has been deemed “in recovery” by the Suwanee River Water Management District after years of over pumping. Opponents of the plan say the river system cannot withstand the proposed pumping.
According to The Guardian, the crystal blue waters of Ginnie Springs have long been treasured among the string of pearls that line Florida’s picturesque Santa Fe River, a playground for water sports enthusiasts and an ecologically critical haven for the numerous species of turtles that nest on its banks. Critics are fighting to stop the project as environmentally harmful and against the public interest.
Those who oppose Nestlé’s plan have set up an online forum and petition and submitted dozens of letters to officials hoping to influence any decisions which might come as early as November.
Read more here: Nestlé Water in Florida