Nestle permit: Florida water district experts recommend 'no'
The water management board that may next week decide whether to allow Seven Springs Water Co. to renew its water-use permit and allow Nestlé to continue to pump up to 1.152 millions of gallons of water from the springs a day is being told by its own experts to vote no.
Katelyn Potter, the Suwannee River Water Management District’s spokeswoman, said Tuesday that the agency’s staff considers Seven Springs’ application incomplete.
The application does not provide specific information about engineering plans to ensure it will be able to accommodate for all of the water it plans to pump, she said. Under its expired permit, Seven Springs was able to pump up to 1.152 million gallons daily, but it told the staff it has never before pumped more than about a third of a million gallons per day.
The water will be pumped from the Santa Fe River system, which connects to Ginnie Springs. Opponents say it would displace wetland levels around the spring, a popular park owned by the family at the helm of Seven Springs.
At several water management district meetings over the past year, opponents including teenagers, a professional mermaid, wildlife advocates and other North Central Florida residents have spoken out against the permit. They say it’s unfair for the company to profit by bottling water that’s needed by everyone.
Seven Springs may provide additional information to the district board, which is set to vote on the permit at its March 10 meeting, but the water agency’s staff cannot review any additional materials sent between now and then, Potter said.
Our Santa Fe River Inc., a Fort White-based nonprofit dedicated to springs and aquifer protection, released a statement saying it is pleased with the staff’s decision, and hopes the board follows suit.
Our Santa Fe River President Mike Roth said Tuesday morning that he has long believed the deal with Nestlé is unnecessary and would cause harm to the Santa Fe River system, which already has a recovery plan underway to maintain minimum water flow levels and prevent further water loss.
“Nestlé has said it will not be taking a lot of water,” Roth said. “If you take a teaspoon of water out of a bottle, there’s still less water.”
Nestlé has not yet returned requests for comment, but has previously told The Sun the company is a good water steward and that the business depends on a healthy supply of clean water.
Nestlé plans to add more lines that could enable it to bottle more water.
This story originally published to gainesville.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the new Gannett Media network.