THE ISSUE: Proposed water extraction tax.

OUR OPINION: Time to put a cap on bottled water withdrawals.

During the 1992 presidential campaign, independent candidate Ross Perot famously predicted that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) would create a “giant sucking sound” of American manufacturing jobs relocating to Mexico.

Today, Florida environmental groups joined by a growing number of Floridians are concerned about another “giant sucking sound.” That giant sucking sound is bottled water operators withdrawing water from the Floridan aquifer — the state’s primary source of drinking water — despite evidence that the aquifer and the springs it sustains are under significant duress.

The giant sucking sound was amplified last September by the news that Seven Springs Water would renew its consumptive use permit at Ginnie Springs, one of the state’s most popular recreational attractions along the Santa Fe River near Gainesville.

Adding to the reverberations of the sucking sound is that the permit allows Seven Springs Water, which supplies Nestlé with water for one of its Florida bottling operations, to withdraw 1.152 million gallons per day. This would more than quadruple the current withdrawal with the only cost to Seven Springs Water being a ludicrous one-time application fee of $115.

The insanity of literally giving away the state’s most essential resource amid increased population projections and record numbers of tourists has spurred an awakening among some state lawmakers who correctly believe that the sane response is to reduce — not increase — the countless volumes being pumped from the aquifer.

Spearheading the “woke” lawmakers is Sen. Anne Taddeo, D-Miami, who filed Senate Bill 1112. As proposed, the bill would provide a market mechanism to protect against over-use by slapping a 12.5 cent per gallon tax on water extracted by bottle water operators. Furthermore, the collected excise tax would be dedicated to the state’s Wastewater Treatment & Stormwater Management Revolving Loan Trust Fund to help localities connect on-site septic systems to central sewerage systems.

Nevertheless, with Nestlé marshaling its political clout and warning that it would shift its water production out of Florida at a cost of 920 jobs and a loss $7 million in taxes to local governments, the buzz in the corridors of the Capitol Building is that the proposed legislation will not see the light of day.

It is both shortsighted and unpardonable on the part of those state legislators who are willing to place the profits of bottled water operators above the common good of protecting the aquifer and the springs it sustains from further depletion.

If the Legislature fails to take timely and decisive action to put a cap on bottled water operators in the interest of reducing the siphoning of our public water, it will certainly be at the peril of our collective future.

(7) comments

ANTHONYMOZO

No extraction tax, the process needs to be banned in this state. No withdrawals from the aquifer, springs, surface waters for Nestle or any private entity from public sources. If the source is on private land, then the state should negotiate a purchase or a conservation easement of the source. These "extractions" have to stop, you simply cannot continue to take water out for private purposes and expect the system to provide a relatively inexpensive source of potable water. If strong conservation measures are not implemented, future generations will pay quite a bit more for potable water then we currently do. Think about the economic consequences of that for a moment.

CitrusCo Citizen

I agree with you, Anthony!

CitrusCo Citizen

Excellent editorial. As a long-time subscriber, I thank you! Write more and help to save our precious aquifer, springs, rivers, and drinking water! Water is Life.

Bell-Man

This state really needs to get a grip on the water usage. You cannot allow some people to take millions of gallons a day and then complain or stop a resident from using a few gallons to water his lawn. As a long time resident of Florida I have watched them pave over farmland all over this state and now they are doing it here in Citrus. Most people won't recognize this place in 10 years.

CitrusCo Citizen

Boycott Nestle products whenever possible. Especially do not buy Zephyrhills bottled water, which Nestles has owned for over 50 years. Don't fall for their new TV ads that spew propaganda.

GOLDIES

Very good. We pay more for our usage than the water bottlers. Unlimited water removal by bottlers just isn't right

CitrusCo Citizen

It's more than "not right". It's theft, greed, highway robbery. Nestles will continue to steal free water because they can--nothing and no one is stopping them. I doubt that our elected legislators will do anything about that--most likely Nestles is donating heavily to their campaign coffers. We'll have to run out of water in our springs, rivers, and lakes before people will start to realize that they should have stopped Nestles and other large corporate water bottlers long ago. Ironically we probably have to buy our own bottled water from Nestles.

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