man crushing plastic water bottle with "no more" text

Boycott Bottled Water: Nestlé Seeks Permit To Get Free Spring Water

*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the East Coast Current.

In America, the free market is a powerful force. The “invisible hand” is at work in every corner of our lives, and the choices we make on a daily basis can shift the fortunes of entire industries.

In an era where bureaucracies flow like a slow stream of molasses, the market is quick, dynamic and can effect change at a break-neck pace. It’s for this reason that I’d like to ask you to make a consumer decision to boycott Nestlé Waters, and this includes brands like Zephyrhills, Arrowhead, San Pellegrino, Perrier and Ready Refresh, which are all owned by Nestlé.

Nestlé Applying for Permit to Pump Ginnie Springs

Nestlé, under the subsidiary 7 Springs Waters, has reapplied for a permit from the Suwannee River Water Management District to pump up to one million gallons of water per day from the Aquifer near Ginnie Springs. Nestlé will pay nothing for the water. They shell out $115 for a one-time application fee. Nestlé had revenues of $91.4 billion last year. The Swiss company owns dozens of brands including at least seven brands of bottled water.

To be fair, Nestlé has been doing this for over three decades. For all that time our elected politicians have dutifully bent to the will of their corporate masters and given companies like Nestlé and others carte blanche to exploit any part of our state that they desire. But this isn’t the Florida of 30 years ago, and our elected officials need to send a message to promote responsible water use on all fronts.

What does this mean for Florida’s aquifer?

As our aquifer faces unprecedented challenges like salt water intrusion, depletion and contamination, the state doesn’t seem to have the appetite for riding the brakes at all. It doesn’t seem to matter to them that Florida has twice as many people as it did 30 years ago. One thousand residents move to the state every day, bringing with each of them an increased demand for our finite water supply. As long as the dough keeps rolling in, we will keep building, pumping and selling our natural resources to the highest bidder – or, in this case, just giving it away for free to a huge foreign corporation. It doesn’t make sense! What good is a pile of cash when there is no clean water to drink? That’s a fundamental question politicians should be asking themselves.

Is it Time to Stop Buying Bottled Water?

I also say a boycott is the way to go because it’s glaringly apparent that Governor Ron DeSantis and others really don’t care that much what the voters think and want, and this makes for a futile effort in begging the state to deny permits like these. Our governor doesn’t seem to have the time to be pestered with empirical evidence that we are careening toward disaster. This is made clear by the governor’s own appointments to the boards responsible for overseeing such permits.

For example, entities such as the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD)
are governed by a nine-member board. In years past, these members represented agriculture and development industries, but also had members engaged in conservation and science.

The State of the Suwannee River Water Management District

Today, the SRWMD has no scientists on its board. Matter of fact, there are no science or conservation representatives on any of the state’s five water boards. All of these positions are appointed by the governor. Apart from an initial and broadly-welcomed purging of Rick Scott’s cronies from influential positions across the state, the fledgling governor has not since deviated from the well-worn path of putting corporate profits ahead of what is actually in the best interest of the citizens.

Despite voters overwhelmingly approving massive funding increases for environmental issues, most of the money remains unspent or in limbo. The political class can’t seem to agree how to deploy those funds without irking their fancy campaign donors. Maybe if enough of us stop buying bottled water, it will serve to remind corporations like Nestlé that the voters are in charge, no matter how much influence they buy in Tallahassee.

If this seems like an angry article, devoid of positivity, that’s because it is. After years of watching the environmental situation continue to deteriorate in Florida, I’m getting pretty sick and tired of the status quo. Also, I’m not a partisan hack ruthlessly attacking Republicans, but in Florida, who else could be to blame?

The GOP controls the state government, so the buck stops with them. Despite mountains of data indicating that we need a major paradigm shift in our use of water, politicians continue to sell it or give it away, or fail to protect it from misuse and pollution. But what do we do when it runs out? Can we drink money? Can we water crops with money?

Our entire economy depends on a reliable and safe supply of drinking water. So, why are we taking chances with it? I know that Nestlé’s proposal to drain 1,000,000 gallons-per-day is a drop in the bucket compared to general water use. But, end users in municipal water systems pay for their water.

Paying for water is a great deterrent of waste. Most farmers don’t pay for their water, true, but they use it to grow crops and produce food, which we need. We don’t need Nestlé’s bottled water, and we shouldn’t want it. We shouldn’t want to buy the same water we get from our taps, and we shouldn’t want the millions of pounds of waste that comes with using plastic water bottles.

We can fill reusable water containers from our own homes, almost for free, and that’s what I’m asking you to do. Write the governor, write your representatives, you can even formally oppose the Nestlé permit on the SRWMD website. But also consider not buying bottled water next time you’re in the grocery store. If enough Floridians take a stand in the checkout line, really meaningful change can happen.

Bryon White author biography

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