The first Monday of April 2018, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) approved a permit for Nestle Waters North America, which produces Pure Life, Ice Mountain, Ozarka, and Perrier, to increase the amount of water they are allowed to withdraw from the state’s groundwater table. This increase allows for a whopping 400 gallons per minute from the previously established 250 gallons per minute. That’s an increase of 150 gallons per minute, or a 60% increase. All this for nothing more than $200 per year. MDEQ director, Heidi Grether, claims that the permit meets the requirement of the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act.
Nestle operates three major pumping sites in Michigan alone, and the county of Osceola is the one primarily impacted by this water extraction. It is reported that approximately 25% of bottled water comes from municipal services, which is the same origins that your household’s tap water has.
Residents of Osceola County filed protests in nearly unanimous opposition to the permit grant. There were only 75 residents in favor of the permit of the 81,862 comments filed. State Senator Democrat Rebekah Warren remarked, “Michiganders know that no private company should be able to generate profits by undermining our state’s precious natural resources, which is why an unprecedented number of people spoke up to oppose this permit.”
In 2001, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation sued Nestle in regards to the potential lake, river, and stream damage that their plant could cause with their groundwater withdrawals. In 2009 both sides reached an agreement to reduce the water siphoning from 400 gallons per minute down to 218 gallons per minute, with additional restrictions on spring and summer withdrawals. This new permit allows Nestle to return to the numbers they originally wanted.
As a measure of protection, the state used computer modeling to determine whether pumping will impact the flow of water throughout the year, and the results suggested that despite the increase by Nestle, its water withdrawal is unlikely to negatively impact the ecosystems. As a condition of the permit, they will continue to monitor the withdrawal area for changes. Nestle can begin withdrawing the increased amount of water from the White Pine Springs well located near Evart, effective immediately.