Environmentalists are outraged over Nestlé’s plans to remove more than 1.1 million gallons of water every day from natural springs in Florida.
The clear waters of Ginnie Springs, Gilchrist County, provides a safe haven for a variety of wading birds and turtles that reside on its banks, as well as being a place where people enjoy swimming and water sports in the tranquil environment.
However, soon that could all be disrupted as Nestlé’s proposed plan – if it’s approved – could mean there will be substantially less water flowing through the springs.
Residents have also criticized the business practice that allows for taxpayer money to restore the spring, while allowing Nestlé to take water out. The Florida Water Resources Act declared that all the water in springs, rivers and lakes is the property of the state, not the landowners, but it never set a price on water. That means, Nestlé will be able to take the state’s water, but not pay the state for it, according to the Gainesville Sun.
“[W]e have an ethical issue with our state putting large sums of money into conservation practices and recharge projects on the Santa Fe River and then, at the same time, counteracting this action by fomenting the free extraction of a publicly owned natural resource by a for-profit company,” wrote Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson and Jim Tatum, from the conservation group Our Santa Fe River, in a column for the Gainesville Sun. “Essentially, taxpayers are funding replenishment of the aquifer and then allowing Nestlé to take it out and sell it back to us.”
Conservationists and environmental groups are concerned about the rivers fragility to serve Nestlé’s interests since it is already labeled as “in recovery” by the Suwannee River water management district after too many years of over pumping, as the Guardian reported.
This natural spring is publicly owned water and the idea that this food giant would take that water away and then sell it back to the public seems corrupt and harmful. Ginnie Springs is home to several species of turtles and the river is said to be too fragile to endure such a draw.
“Every bit of healthy freshwater flowing out from the Floridan aquifer is necessary to keep our ecosystems intact, for an abundance of fish, reptile, microorganisms, and waterfowl populations. This important waterway is also vital for the local and state economy as a result of freshwater springs contributing to a thriving recreational tourism destination,” claims Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, Santa Fe River board member.
Seven Springs is the current permit holder of the natural springs and they have not drawn more than 260,000 gallons per day. There permit has expired which is giving Nestlé the opportunity to gain approval from the Suwannee River water management district.
According to EcoWatch, taxpayers have spent money restoring the spring in the recent past, giving the residents a sense of ownership and responsibly of the area that they do not want Nestlé to destroy.
The Florida Water Resources Act “declared that water in springs, rivers, and lakes was the property of the state, not of the property owners along them. But the act and later laws did not set a price on water,” says the Gainesville Sun. This means Nestlé can take the water and not have to pay the state for it.