Nestle / Ice Mountain wants to increase their water bottling operation in Michigan by an additional 70 million gallons per year bringing their total water use to 340 million gallons per year. There is much debate surrounding Nestle, water diversion, aquifer depletion, water management, etc. and various cases are winding their way through the court system.
Wayne State University law professor and water expert Noah Hall says:
The $64,000 question is whether a private company can bottle and sell a public resource for a profit. That’s really the heart of the legal, political and emotional debate surrounding bottled water.
Doing a little googling brought up these interesting facts:
- If governors from the eight Great Lakes states allow Waukesha to tap Lake Michigan water, the annual financial boon to the Milwaukee Water Works would be at least $1.7 million.
- The Waukesha Water Utility is considering buying up to 2.9 billion gallons of Lake Michigan water from Milwaukee Water Works each year. That could make the Waukesha Water Utility one of Milwaukee’s largest customers.
- The Milwaukee Water Works utility sold more than 40 billion gallons last year, taking in revenue of more than $70 million.
- Miller Brewing Co. bought 650 million gallons from the Milwaukee Water Works in 2005 (twice as much as Nestle).
So why is this the $64,000 question? Why is Nestle / Ice Mountain singled out and Miller Brewing Co. not? If Nestle changes the color of the water it bottles or includes an additive or two would that make a difference?
Also, why is water different than wine? Michigan’s 45 commercial wineries produce more than 300,000 cases of wine annually, making the state 13th in wine production (about 750,000 gallons). Vineyard area has increased 24% since 1997. Source: Michigan Wine Facts
The point is that there are lots of companies selling water based products (i.e., taking water, a public resource, transforming it in some way, putting it in a bottle, and selling if for a profit) that are not coming under the same scrutiny as Nestle. Why?