For generations, Ginnie Springs in Gilchrist County, Florida, has been is a clear water haven where a variety of turtles and wading birds live and breed and people enjoy the tranquillity and water sports.
Nestlé, however, has different plans for the springs which, if approved, would disrupt the tranquillity and the water flow.
The Guardian reports that Nestlé plans to remove 1.1 million gallons of water from the springs daily and sell the bottled water to the public. Those opposed to this project say the river is already under strain and regarded as being ‘in recovery’ by the Suwannee River water management district and could not sustain such a large draw.
Fighting to stop the project, environmentalist say this is against public interest and will harm the environment, which Nestlé denies and plans to continue having already spent millions of dollars buying and upgrading a water bottling plant at High Springs nearby, a clear indication that they are expecting permission to be granted
Nestlé has 800 employees in Florida and regardless of objections to the project insist the spring water is a rapidly renewable resource, promising a robust management plan in partnership with its local agents for long-term sustainability of its water sources.
It seems, however, that it’s plans would result in four times as much water taken daily than the previous record high of 0.26 million gallons at Seven Springs.
George Ring, natural resources manager for Nestlé Waters North America, confirmed as much to the Suwannee district engineers in a letter sent in June where he wrote:
The facility is in process of adding bottling capacity and expects significant increase in production volumes equal to the requested annual average daily withdrawal volume of approximately 1.152m gallon.
Campaigners are fighting against a positive decision for the proposal with letters of opposition and via an online forum.
Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, director of the non-profit organisation Our Santa Fe River, said the real question should be:
‘’How much harm is it going to cause the spring, what kind of change is going to be made in that water system?’’ She added:
‘’The Santa Fe River is already in decline [and] there’s not enough water coming out of the aquifer itself to recharge these lovely, amazing springs that are iconic and culturally valued and important for natural systems and habitats.
It’s impossible to withdraw millions of gallons of water and not have an impact. If you take any amount of water out of a glass you will always have less.’’
The Santa Fe River and its spring habitats are home to 11 native turtle species and four non-native species, which rely on a vigorous water flow and river levels, Malwitz-Jipson explained, saying it’s ‘‘A big threat to this diversity is habitat degradation, which will happen with reduced flows,’’ continuing:
‘’The district is currently in conversation with Seven Springs to request an evaluation report of any harm the project might cause to wetlands, as well as a documented impact study of Ginnie Springs.
Unless Seven Springs can show there would be no change in water levels or flows and no adverse impacts to water quality, vegetation or animal population, the district says the permit cannot be granted.’’
Nestlé, in a statement provided to The Guardian to address ‘misconceptions’ about its plans, saying it would make no sense ‘to invest millions of dollars into local operations just to deplete the natural resources on which our business relies’.