Controversial brand Nestlé has proposed a plan to take 1.1 million gallons per day from Ginnie Springs. This environmentally detrimental move could cause further damage to the already fragile Santa Fe River. The proposal has gotten significant backlash from conservationists, who believe the company is trying to sell publicly owned water back to the consumer.
Why is Nestlé’s plan a big deal?
The Santa Fe River is a fragile habitat that houses several species of turtles. The Suwannee River water management district already labeled the river “in recovery” after years of over pumping. This business move by Nestlé will only further the already existing damage. The river simply cannot handle the significant loss of more water.
Nestlé insists that this environmental claim is not accurate; however, environmentalists think differently. The company insists that spring water is a rapidly renewable resource. Hence, it argues that the draw of more water will not adversely affect the river habitat. They also promise a “robust” management plan for the long-term sustainability of its water sources.
Conservationists, on the other hand, think differently.
Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson and Jim Tatum, from the conservation group Our Santa Fe River, claimed that:
“[They] 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. Essentially, taxpayers are funding replenishment of the aquifer and then allowing Nestlé to take it out and sell it back to us.”
What is the extent of the backlash?
Campaigners against Nestlé’s plan have started an online forum and petition. More specifically, they have submitted dozens of letters of opposition in hopes of disqualifying the plan. If their efforts are unsuccessful, the plan is set to come as early as November.
Suwannee River Water Management District Program Engineer Stefani Weeks said that because Seven Springs is seeking a five-year renewal of an existing permit rather than making a new application, board members could not consider the Santa Fe River’s protected designation in 2014.
The district wants an evaluation report of any harm that the project might cause to wetlands and a documented impact study of Ginnie Springs. The permit cannot be granted unless Seven Springs can show that there would be no change in “water levels or flows of the source spring from the normal rate and range of function” and “no adverse impacts to water quality, vegetation, or animal population.”