Nestlé Allowed to Tap Michigan Groundwater to Bottle for Profit, While Residents’ Bills Rise

Nesté Ice Mountain brand water bottles from Michigan

by Zoey Shipley and Monica Medina

As many Michigan citizens pay exorbitant prices for drinking water, Nestlé Corporation will continue to extract 400 gallons of water per minute (a 60% increase over its original permit) from a well in western Michigan for which they pay only $200 a year.  Last week, an administrative judge overruled a challenge by residents of the nearby town and local environmental groups who challenged the state’s permit that had been issued by Michigan’s prior governor’s administration. There is a major concern that the 60% increase in pumping will cause harm to the local ecology.  Nestlé has pumped out and bottled over 4 billion gallons of water from 4 sites in 2 Michigan counties.

Why This Matters: It is unconscionable that the largest food company in the world takes groundwater, puts it in bottles, and sells it back to poor communities in the state whose own drinking water supplies are some of the most costly in the country and have previously been tainted with toxic chemicals.  And now, due to the pandemic, bottled water is more expensive than ever in Michigan. House Democrats are investigating the company’s practices. Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib said “Where my constituents are having their water shut off due to exorbitant bills, we have Nestle up the road profiting millions off the water my community is being denied.”

Michigan Citizens for Water

Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation and local Indigenous nations challenged the permit due to the concern that the increased pumping will hurt the ecology of the Chippewa Creek watershed. But, according to the Detroit News, the judge ruled that the proposed pumping is “reasonable under common law principles of water law in Michigan.”  Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation vowed to continue their fight, saying “Unfortunately, the laws of our state still allow private corporations to profit from our natural resources but do not seem to support public health and welfare. Those laws must change so that the human right to clean, affordable water and sanitation becomes the top priority of government, rather than the promotion of corporate greed and destruction of  environmental support systems.”

Florida Fighting Too

E&E News reported in January that Nestlé wants to take more than 1 million gallons of water a day out of a spring in northcentral Florida to sell back to the public for a one-time application fee of $115. The company already extracts 3 million gallons of spring water EACH DAY in Florida from four groundwater sources and if granted its latest permit, it would increase to more than 4 million.

Nestlé Says They Support Communities

MLive reports that recently “Nestlé announced $2 million in grants to support conservation projects in Michigan’s Muskegon River watershed. The company has been trying to combat negative perceptions through social media efforts and blog posts that portray Nestle as a responsible environmental steward with minimal impact.”

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