Bottled Water Is Sucking Florida Dry

In Economy, Environment, States On

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida has the largest concentration of freshwater springs in the world, but they are being devastated by increasing pollution and drastic declines in water flow. Some springs have dried up from overextraction; others have shown signs of saltwater intrusion and harmful algae blooms.

At least 60 springs discharge from the Floridan aquifer into the Santa Fe River, which runs 75 miles through north-central Florida. This aquifer is the primary source of drinking water in the state. The state and local governments have continued to issue water bottling extraction permits that prevent the aquifer from recharging.

The answer to this problem is simple: No more extraction permits should be granted, and existing permits should be reduced with the goal of eliminating bottled water production entirely in Florida. At the very least, corporations should be taxed for the water they now extract free of charge. That revenue can be used to pay for water infrastructure projects.

In the next few months, Nestlé is set to renew its permit at Ginnie Springs, one of the most popular recreational attractions along the Santa Fe River. The permit allows Nestlé to take one million gallons per day at no cost, with just a one-time $115 application fee.

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