Bottled Water Companies Pump Aquifers Dry and Pay a Pittance
In many countries, including the United States, there is little limitation on the rate at which water can be pumped out of Nature’s underground water reserves called aquifers. Water bottling companies have for years been pumping billions of gallons of water out of aquifers without regard for the watershed and surrounding environment and selling water for 3000 to 5000 times more than they pay for it.
Nestle, for example, runs a plant for its two of its bottled water brands in Stanwood, Michigan. The company operates three well fields with a total of seven wells, all within the Muskegon River watershed. According to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), Nestle pumped more than 3.4 billion gallons of water from its three Michigan well fields between 2005 and 2015. In 2015, Nestle was given approval by the MDEQ to pump 250 gallons per minute at White Pine Springs Well in Osceola County. The company now wants to increase the amount of water it pumps from this well to 400 gallons per minute. Nestle would pay the state of Michigan $200 per year for this increase. Not $200 per hour. $200 per year.
Nestle’s White Pine Springs Well pumps water from an underground aquifer that is connected to the above-ground water system through a permeable layer of earth called a leaky aquitard. Pumping water from the aquifer can drain significant amounts of water from above. With the high level of depletion of the aquifer, the wetlands and wildlife above the ground are at high risk of being harmed by Nestle’s pumping. Residents of the area have noticed that water levels in Osceola County’s Chippewa Creek, which flows into the Muskegon River watershed, have significantly dropped in recent years, affecting trout populations.
Nevertheless, regulators are expected to grant Nestle’s request to boost its pumping rate to 400 gpm. This is corporate welfare at its worst.