“We are the river, and the river is us. We have no choice but to stand up.” — LaDonna Brave Bull Allard Founder of Sacred Stone Camp
As a kid, I never questioned the availability of water. I’ve been privileged to have access to clean drinking and bathing water all my life, unlike the citizens of Flint, Michigan and billions of others across the world. In Florida, we are extremely fortunate to have our own aquifer, as well as a diverse system of springs. Considering that water is the most basic need shared by all life on the planet, it is in our best interest to protect it for generations to come. One of the threats to the health of our water supply is bottling companies that commodify this valuable resource for pennies, and sell it back to us for huge profits.
I’ll never forget when the professor of my first college course matter-of-factly told the class that the wars of the future would be fought over water. We learned about the underhanded tactics used by multi-national corporations, such as Nestle, to gain access to the world’s water resources. Buying up bottling rights in economically-struggling areas, Nestle has managed to make huge profits while paying very little for this precious resource. They have also gained a reputation for environmental destruction and human rights violations abroad.
In our own backyard, Nestle now plans to pump nearly one million gallons a day in Ginnie Springs. Located about two and a half hours north of Tampa, Ginnie Springs is part of the Santa Fe River, which flows for 75 miles through 7 counties. Crystal clear water and diverse animal life are part of the immense beauty of the space, which attracts tubers, divers, and nature lovers from across the state. It is privately owned by the Wray family, who also own Seven Springs Water Co. The Wray family have permitted water to various bottling companies in the past 20 years, but this new permit with Nestle would increase the consumption by 3-4 times. And the permit only cost $115. While no one knows exactly how much Nestle will be paying to Seven Springs, it can safely be assumed that the Wrays and Nestle will be making millions while Floridians see none of the profits. What makes this permit additionally alarming is the spring’s designation by the state as already being “in recovery” due to low water levels.
The permit has already been granted, despite massive public outcry. But there is still hope as both the Florida Springs Council and Our Santa Fe River have filed a lawsuit challenging this permit. What can we do to protect our water and ensure there is clean water for generations to come? The Springs Council recommends spreading the word. You can become a member of the council online to get updates on future actions. Tell your friends and family, donate to the legal cause, and steer clear of Nestle products.
Featured image: Ginnie Springs. Photo by Alachua County