In Florida, a fight over bottled water makes a big splash

Some activists say the bottled-water biz is bad for the environment and threatens a treasured tourist attraction.


March 9, 2020

Water might be our planet’s most precious commodity. So it’s no wonder that when communities fight corporations over control of the aqua supply, someone’s bound to get wet.

In Florida, 1 of these water fights is getting heated: A local family’s company is seeking a permit to increase by 4x the amount of water that’s pumped from a recreational spring to a nearby bottling plant.

The request unleashed a gusher of controversy

Seven Springs Water Company, created by Florida’s Wray family, has been selling sweet, sweet H2O to bottlers like Nestlé since the ’90s. 

It’s big business for both parties: From 2003 to 2008, the family received monthly payments for the water that added up to almost $5m. Nestlé’s water brands did $4.5B in sales last year.

But some people are thirsty for Nestlé to take a hike

Namely: Environmentalists, local business owners, and other activists. 

They say the bottled-water biz is bad for the environment and depletes a treasured tourist attraction of its most important natural resource.

Nestlé’s opponents in the Sunshine State aren’t the only ones who have tried to drain the bottled-water biz. Its operations caused controversy in California and Michigan, and state lawmakers have floated bills to turn off the spigot on bottling companies.

Nestlé says its business provides jobs that support local economies, and says it manages water resources responsibly without sucking them dry.

This fight might see a few more waves

In Florida, the scientific staff of the local water supply initially recommended that the new water permit be denied, since it hadn’t been shown that bottling the water was “consistent with the public interest.” The authority is expected to weigh in on the case again today.

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