Undercurrents: beneath the obvious

December 20, 2006

A Brief History of Nestle’s Water Battles in Michigan

Filed under: Bottled Water,Great Lakes History,Michigan,Water Diversion — nemo @ 10:32 pm

Notes from a presentation by Tony Clarke, Director, Polaris Institute, Canada.

In North America, bottled water companies like Nestlé Waters have been able to secure control over underground aquifers and streams by taking advantage of an archaic patch work of regulatory regimes. One of these is called the “rule of capture.” According this law, “ground water is the private property of the owner of the overlying land” and they “have the right to capture the ground water beneath their land.” It is also known as the ‘law of the biggest pump’ because the landowner with the largest pumping capacity “can dry up the adjoining landowner’s well.”

In Michigan, the initial battle lines were drawn around the zoning changes that were required in Mecosta County, and neighboring Osceola County, to allow Nestlé’s to build its water bottling operation. In June and August 2001, referendums were held in both Mecosta and Osceola counties, and rezoning was rejected by a 2-to-1 margin.

In October 2002, a judge ruled that while Nestlé had the right to pump water on a ‘reasonable use’ basis, the company’s water withdrawal has harmed, or is likely to harm, the community residents and the environment.

Nestle appealed this decision and, in November 2003, the Michigan Circuit Court upheld the lower court and “…ordered the company that produces Ice Mountain bottled water to halt all water withdrawals in Mecosta County.” But, in December 2003, Nestlé won an emergency reprieve to continue pumping spring water until its appeal of the circuit court ruling has been heard and decided.

In 2005 on appeal by Nestle, the Appellate Court reversed the lower court decision that landowners along streams have legal standing superior to those bottling water and exporting it out of state. At this time, the Supreme Court is evaluating a segment of the case addressing the legal right to file suit.

Nestle / Ice Mountain contends that the company’s primary issues in the battle are decided — “To a great extent, the case has largely been resolved through the Court of Appeals when it decided Nestle has the right to use water under the rules of the state’s reasonable use laws.” (Deb Muchmore)

Source: Nestlé’s Water Wars The Experience of North America (pdf)

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26 Comments »

  1. Hello Water Wars,

    Nestle’s PR spokesperson for the effort to pilfer water from people in lower Michigan is Deb Muchmore. Muchmore is also the lead spokesperson for Kennecott, trying to open a metallic sulfide mine just miles from Lake Superior (in northern Michigan).

    Muchmore recently started a new “citizen” front group for Kennecott to fight opponents of its mine project.

    I wrote a bit about it on my blog. . . http://lakesuperiorminingnews.net/2009/10/15/kennecott-spokeswoman-organizes-citizen-campaign/

    Interesting how Nestle and Kennecott’s objectives work hand-in-hand and they share the same spokesperson.

    Gabriel C.

    Comment by Lake Superior Mining News — October 17, 2009 @ 11:58 am | Reply

  2. [...] Nestle’s Water Battles in Michigan – Where Nestle took advantage of the “rule of capture.” According this law, “ground water is [...]

    Pingback by Water Wars - Water Conflicts set to escalate | Remarkable Ideas — November 21, 2009 @ 7:35 pm | Reply

  3. Bottled water is bad, but Growing exotic crops to be shipped out of state, in arid areas requiring excess water is not? Water uses in paper mills? whew

    Comment by JACK Tomas — September 27, 2010 @ 8:11 pm | Reply

  4. This is what is being exposed tonight, 12/03/2010, on Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura. Interesting to discover some documentation that is revealing the past.
    I can’t believe this “law of the largest PumP” that is unbelievable! I wonder do they actually only pay $100 a year for the right to take all this water?

    Comment by Jason Rasset — December 3, 2010 @ 11:25 pm | Reply

  5. Thank you all for providing information and resources. I watched the Ventura piece , with skepticism of course. However, as a lifelong citizen of the Great Lakes region, I am seriously concerned and moved to know more. Obviously we need to stop drinking water from plastic containers, but how then do we protect our greatest natural resource? OR…….is this a way for Michigan to recover economically?
    Many questions.
    Steven Coron, Dec. 4, 2010

    Comment by steven coron — December 4, 2010 @ 7:04 am | Reply

  6. On the count of three, all well-based citizens turn your wells on constantly and wait for the legislature to fix their broken and ill-planned laws. Let’s see how long their ‘no foul’ cries last. What we lack in just one pump, we make up for with many.

    Comment by Civil Disobedience — December 17, 2010 @ 12:34 pm | Reply

  7. I lived in a neighboring community and watched this whole debacle unfold. Having spent 5 yrs battling to protect another aquifer in another Michigan county, I knew what tricks Nestle would be using…..and they played em all. Because the property was already developed and the bottling works was already in place when the STOP order was issued, they continued to expand the building and scope of the project…..like they knew in the end they would somehow get their way. Every time I see one of their bottles, my stomach turns as I remember the turmoil that area went through all in the name of JOBS.

    Comment by Paulette — April 27, 2011 @ 5:10 pm | Reply

  8. How is this possible. The voters said no and they go to court and get approval to rape the people. I say those who voted should be protesting on the front steps of these judges homes.If the government is going to allow this it wont be long before force will be needed and that’s when we find out if our military are going to fire on its own citizens.

    Comment by John — May 25, 2011 @ 3:35 pm | Reply

  9. i can’t get over Nestle taking our water, i think that if we boycott all Nestle products, maybe they will get the message. I am going to start today. How can we as citizens stop Nestle, the water on this planet is all the water there is. what will be do when all the water is gone? all we will have left is contaminated rivers, can we citizens drink that, NO!

    Comment by teresa — June 12, 2011 @ 2:11 pm | Reply

    • What we will have is a Third World War that will take more lives than all the wars of humankind together and the civil war within the USA over water will start the day that water prices go up to $10.00 a gallon for access to a dirty tap in a dirty field filled with garbage…..this is essentially how and where a third of the worlds’ population gets and pay’s for it’s water now….that is if they can get water at all. In India 100′s of thousands of people have been displaced by these companies and are now starting to die off and they have been told that they will be arrested if they catch and retain rain as their government (which has Suez and one other World Bank water privatization company taking their water for profit) that the rain DOES NOT BELONG TO THEM!

      THAT is what is coming to Michigan, same as the southwest….and will only take about 10 more year’s to happen because Michigan is also almost entirely licensed for Natural Gas drilling (Fracture Drilling) which infuses thousands of gallons a day of over 130 toxic chemicals into our water shed; so they must remove as much unpoisoned fresh water as they can in the time they have left. George Bush’s last signature before leaving office was to release the Natural Gas drillers of ANY AND ALL oversight by the USDA or Clean Water Act. Michigan will die as a result. The people of Michigan will do nothing until it too late, this is historically what Americans and Humans do. So in direct answer to your question as to what citizens can do? REVOLUTION, Action, demonstrations that have more than 150 smart people or locals, we must have demonstrations of people in the tens of thousands to make any change happen because WE are responsible for allowing this to happen in the first place. We elected the completely Republican (Money Making Interests) which now run every aspect of our state, and you see what is happening. Corruption and money trumps our lives every time to these men…..to think or even imagine for a moment that anything else is true is folly and you should just end it now rather than dying from water born disease, starvation and war…..because that is all we have to look forward to as the dominos fall.

      Comment by David Davis — June 20, 2011 @ 4:58 pm | Reply

    • I agree. Nestle is not the only company that is doing the same thing.
      Coke (Dasani)and Pepsi(Aquafina) are also guilty of bottling enourmous amount of water…but people still buy it!! Why?? These three Co. as well as others are also draining aquifers (underground water deposit)and people who live in rural areas have their wells go bone dry.
      Just google the words coke and India and you will see the horrors that Coke is doing over there.
      People all over North America should spend less time watching meaningless shows on T.V. and start paying attention to what is going on around them.
      We can live without oil but we can’t live witout water.

      Comment by Denis — July 15, 2011 @ 11:47 am | Reply

    • Nestle does not take ground water from private wells or above ground water. They BUY fresh water with springs and such.. but not ordiary lake water. My friends bought a log cabin and Nestle moved in and the water levels went down and summer homes was sold dirt cheap. but what they did not consider was we was in drout.. Now, the lake is above normal because of the excessive rainfall and now, with so much snow and winter has not even officially came in yet, they are again looking at floosing conditions come spring.. But people need something to talk about so lets talk something we do not even have all the correct information about.. drinking water through old cast iron and rusty pipes like in my old farm house, was not safe.. and so for people like me, I Thank God for Nestle Botted Water..and Look at the jobs and Good Things they are doing too. soup kitchens, building medical offices and supplies for low income, activites and even play grounds, cleaning by volunteers from their own plants rivers and streams.. WHAT ON EARTH DO WE HAVE TO COMPLAIN ABOUT.. and Yes, I KNOW THIS FIRST HAND AS GOD’S HONEST TRUTH..

      Comment by Neoma — December 14, 2013 @ 4:25 pm | Reply

      • I’ll give you an example of what we have to complain about. When Nestle applied for two pumping stations in Mid Michigan, they proposed removing upwards of 80,000 gallons a day from each well. What was Michigan’s response? A completely TAX FREE operation, $20,000,000 in abatements and ZERO income to the state from either the contract or their ultimate sales. There were a series of injunctions which all failed and now the Titibawasi River is becoming a mud flat. The conservative government gave them everything for nothing and that was only the beginning. I won’t bore you further as obviously prefer to leave your head in the hole, and I apologize as I do not mean to be rude, it’s just so sad.

        Comment by Dave — February 28, 2014 @ 9:00 pm

  10. Sounds like people should boycott Nestle bottled water and their other brands of bottled water as well. We should pass on this information to as many people as we can. People should not purchase any bottled water except in emergencies. I for one, purchased an under the sink type of water filtration system for a few hundered dollars and have not bought any bottled water since. I also purchased a stainless steel bottle and I use that to carry around. There are good documentary DVD’s on the market. “Tapped” and “Flow For Love of Water”

    Comment by Denis — July 13, 2011 @ 11:37 am | Reply

  11. [...] own selfish benefit? I got most of my information from this blog, here is the link for more info! : http://waterwars.wordpress.com/2006/12/20/a-brief-history-of-nestles-water-battles-in-michigan/ Clean Water Action View all posts by Clean Water Action    Clean Water [...]

    Pingback by Draining our aquifers: how is this okay? « Blogging for Michigan — July 19, 2011 @ 9:42 pm | Reply

  12. Bottled water is indeed bad for your health, so do not use it. Personally, I use steel water bottles, and not only for water, but for other drinks too. It is much healthier than plastic.

    Comment by Stainless Steel Water Bottles — August 30, 2011 @ 5:05 am | Reply

  13. Hey, people are you all from the Stanwood area? I have some seasonal property there, and worry about the water situation. I do not buy Nestle water, but it continues to sell, despite all the bad press about the plastic bottles, as well. I also want to start a discussion about how to infuse a sense of community in the Mecosta area- I have a suggestion for some group to organize a ice cream social/ art display in Stanwood, sometime in the summer. Can I get anyone to support this?

    Comment by demarestj — January 13, 2013 @ 8:18 pm | Reply

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