Saturday, January 13, 2007

More Thoughts on Nestle's Water Bottling Operation, Not Mine.

The following was written by a passionate small business and land owner in Newaygo County. I'm republishing it here in the hope that you will use it in your correspondence with your state representative.

We must protect the Great Lakes, it’s watershed and the aquifers that provide the water from profiteers. We must do it now! Please give the people of Michigan our right to comment on Nestle's proposed withdrawal of our waters. Please extend the public comment time since this opportunity came at such a busy time and we all need to be informed and heard.

We understand that, since the time of the Magna Carta, a clear set of public trust principles and standards have been developed: Water is a commons which cannot be owned, diverted, nor sold for profit. Water is an essential need, a public trust, not a commodity. It belongs to everyone and to no one.

If Michigan does not act to assert public ownership of the Great Lakes, it is writing a death warrant for the future of this water resource. Only the public has the right and the interest to assure water remains for future generations.

There have been commercial water bottling operations in Michigan before, but something new came on the scene in 2001 with the Nestle Mecosta County water lowering and bottling project. For the first time in Michigan history, a large international corporation was taking, claiming ownership of, and selling for a huge profit water that feeds the Great Lakes.

The Mecosta County Circuit Court and the Michigan Court of Appeals both determined that Nestle's pumping at 150 to 170 gpm caused substantial harm in the headwaters of the West Branch of the Little Muskegon River in Mecosta County. The bore hole drilling Nestle uses here (illegal in Europe) takes water faster than it naturally surfaces so obviously the wet lands are harmed. Private water exports that diminish our lakes and streams, whether in ships, trucks, or bottles, should not permitted. If we, the citizens of Michigan do not keep strict control on who, when, where and for what purpose someone is allowed to export our water for private gain, we will ourselves in dire straits when the global demand for water comes crashing on our shores.

Nestle has made the argument that the few jobs and taxes it provides are sufficient compensation for this affront. Yet any company can provide jobs and taxes: Such a rule would simply allow the wealthy to pay for the right to export and divert water, even if harm to the watershed is substantial.

Nestle Waters, in 2003, led the American bottled water market with a one-third share of total sales or almost $2.7 billion (US). All profits are directed to shareholders of Swiss parent Nestle, who cumulatively enjoyed profits in 2005 of $10.26 billion (US).

Nestle Waters, is immersed in controversy in over half a dozen states. In 2000/01 when a drought hit Pasco County, Florida, Nestle continued to push for a permit to increase its water takings from the area, from 301,000 to 1.8 million gallons per day. It’s priority is profit not the public interest. This is also apparent in it’s baby formula scandals

Nestle's intention is to add to the sources of Spring Water that it relies upon. Ice Mountain may be considering a location in your area for installation of a well to support Ice Mountain’s growing business. They say they do not want to put a strain on any one source, but we do not know enough about the source, is it one aquifer under the whole region? What ever the source, it feeds our Great Lakes.

In 1998 the Nova Group wanted to take 156 million gallons of water from Lake Superior every year & ship it in tankers to Asia. The response was an emphatic 'NO.' When does the number of bottles of water from one source (Nestle) add up to as much or more than that of the tanker. As author, blogger and Clean Water Action policy advisor Dave Dempsey has noted, Michigan is opposing as an unlawful diversion a proposal by New Berlin, WI to remove from the Great Lakes basin 340 million gallons a year. Yet if all of Nestle's proposed or studied water mining and packaging operations are approved in Michigan, they would total well over 500 million gallons per year.

We must demand that water exported out of the Great Lakes watershed in bottles be treated with the same tough restrictions as water proposed for export in freighters or pipelines.

The amount of energy used to make, transport and recycle the plastic bottles is enormous. And 10 billion bottles are discarded every year in the United States alone, most of them ending up in landfills.

There is also the issue of whether, under the terms of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), water is a 'vital resource' like the air we breathe, or a 'commodity' to be sold and traded. We must stand together to protect our water. It is a right of every citizen of Michigan & the other Great Lake States. If it is indeed a product, why wouldn’t the state of Michigan receive compensation as it does for gas & oil?

We support values based upon the public trust and common law of riparian property rights, where water is retained in healthy watersheds, abundant fisheries, and vibrant human communities, who respect and carefully protect the priceless source which brings life and prosperity, including jobs, to everyone. The abundant water in our state supports one of the biggest sectors of Michigan's economy -- tourism, which generates $15 billion, 188,000 jobs and $868 million in state revenue. Changing water levels and flows will have unpredictable and harmful consequences to basin habitat, biodiversity, shorelines, jobs and culture. Lower water levels will mean greater disturbance of highly contaminated sediments in shallow harbors and connecting channels and less dilution of polluted waters. Without healthy lakes, streams and wetlands to attract tourists, every citizen will suffer the economic consequences.

We believe that Great Lakes water, in all forms throughout the whole hydrologic cycle, must be vigilantly protected from any diversion or export, and any harmful withdrawal. Great Lakes water must not be commodified, priced or sold. With 20 percent of the world's fresh water supply within our reach, the state has a moral and legal obligation to ensure that we are the best possible stewards of the extraordinary resource.

If we ruin the great Lakes, that's it. For them, and probably for us. If you think that impossible, read Peter Annin’s terrifying new book the Great Lakes Water Wars, and learn how the Soviet Union destroyed the Aral Sea.

It has been said that water will be the oil of the 21st century, or liquid gold, and that it will cause wars between nations. Whatever happens with regard to global water, and the environmental, economic and political fallout, Michigan will be a major player.

Please protect Michigan’s water NOW!

If this doesn't inspire you to action, I don't know what will. The fight is just beginning. We are not at war with any other group or nation over water yet, but that time is coming. The decisions we make now will affect generations to come, and the lessons we learn today must be taught to them as well. The fight for the Great Lakes is in it's infancy. The true battles are on the horizon.

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