Bottled SPRING water shouldn't exist
THE FIGHT AGAINST
NESTLE & GINNIE SPRINGS
The Florida Springs Council launched a lawsuit to stop the water use permit that allows the owners of Ginnie Springs to pump nearly 1 million gallons of water per day from the springs to sell to Nestle/BlueTriton for bottling.
Photo by Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson
In November 2022 FSC won an important hurdle in this case - the 1st District Court of Appeals unanimously supported FSC’s right to challenge the permit.
As expected, attorneys for Seven Springs Water Co. had been (and are) doing everything possible to prevent the Florida Springs Council from presenting our public interest case in an Administrative Hearing. They argued that FSC’s petition should be dismissed because we filed our challenge after the water use permit was approved.
We not only won, successfully appealing an earlier order
dismissing our case, but the three-judge panel unanimously
upheld FSC’s right to a hearing. (read the full ruling here)
Now the case moves forward to the
Division of Administrative Hearings.
Florida Springs Council vs Seven Springs Water Co.
On February 23rd, 2021 the Suwannee River Water Management District Governing Board (District) approved a controversial water use permit requested by Seven Springs Water Company, owned by the operators of the Ginnie Springs campground, to provide nearly 1 million gallons of water per day to be bottled and sold by Nestle (now known as BlueTriton.)
Ginnie Springs flows into the Santa Fe River which is already suffering “significant harm” from over-pumping. According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, when fully operational, the pumping authorized under this permit will cause a 4 percent reduction in flows from Ginnie Springs to the Santa Fe River.
The District approved the permit under protest after losing an earlier court case to Seven Springs Water Co. Nonetheless, in approving the water use permit, the District ignored a legal requirement to consider the public interest, violated their own rules, and exposed serious flaws in water use permitting.
The Florida Springs Council immediately filed a legal challenge to the permit to protect the rights of our members and protect the Santa Fe River. We petitioned for a Hearing in the Department of Administrative Hearings, or DOAH, the court where cases involving state agency actions are decided.
The legal challenge
We argue that the SRWMD was required to deny the permit for two reasons:
First, Seven Springs Water Co., the name under which the owners of Ginnie Springs applied for the permit, does not own or control the neighboring bottling facility where the water use will occur. Currently that facility is owned by BlueTriton (the new name of Nestle Waters North America.)
Under SRWMD rules, Seven Springs Water Co., therefore, does not have the legal right to conduct the water use. Without the actual water user on the permit, the SRWMD has no way to assure that the allocated water will be used in a reasonable and beneficial manner or enforce compliance with SRWMD rules.
Second, the SRWMD Governing Board failed to consider whether issuing the consumptive use permit was “consistent with the public interest” as required by SRWMD rules and Florida Statute. The district's rules require that all permits pass a "Three Prong Test."
Is the water use reasonable-beneficial
Does the water use interfere with an existing legal use
Is the permit in the public interest
The SRWMD rules define “public interest” as the “broad-based interests and concerns that are collectively shared by members of a community or residents of the District or State.” These interests and concerns, which include environmental impacts, were not addressed in the permit application nor by the SRWMD Governing Board in making their decision to grant the permit.
Ensuring that a permit is in the “public interest” is the most important of the three prongs. It literally represents our interest in how our most important resource, groundwater, is used. Unfortunately, water management districts have stopped considering what is in the public’s best interest when issuing water use permits, even when the public makes their interests and concerns crystal clear. In this case, more than 19,000 people wrote comments to the SRWMD, the vast majority of which opposed issuing the permit because of the additional harm it would do to the Santa Fe River.
Access the full legal petition at https://www.floridaspringscouncil.org/_files/ugd/719d3f_2b32de36b91a4feba17be77f3501d1da.pdf
We have already passed the point of sustainable withdrawals in the Santa Fe River Basin because our water management districts have been asleep at the wheel.
Once again, non-profit advocacy groups like the Florida Springs Council are stepping in where our state agencies have failed. It’s time to draw a line in the sand and say no more. If Nestle wants our water, we are going to make them come and take it.
Florida Springs Council
What you can do
Sign up for a free Florida Springs Council membership to stay informed. An informed and vocal springs community is key to change, which is why we offer the membership for free. We need your participation, your calls and emails to decision-makers, your presence at meetings, your voice behind our mission.