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.