Great Lakes Environmental Directory Great Lakes Great Lakes environment Great Lakes grants exotic species water pollution water export drilling environment Great Lakes pollution Superior Michigan Huron Erie Ontario ecology Great Lakes issues wetlands Great Lakes wetlands Great Lakes Great Lakes environment Great Lakes watershed water quality exotic species Great Lakes grants water pollution water export oil gas drilling environment environmental Great Lakes pollution Lake Superior Lake Michigan Lake Huron Lake Erie Lake Ontario Great Lakes ecology Great Lakes issues Great Lakes wetlands Great Lakes Resources Great Lakes activist Great Lakes environmental organizations Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat air pollution alien species threatened rare endangered species ecological Great Lakes information Success Stories Great Lakes Directory Home/News Great Lakes Calendar Great Lakes jobs/volunteering Search Great Lakes Organizations Take Action! Contact Us Resources/Links Great Lakes Issues Great Lakes News Article About Us Networking Services

Great Lakes Article:

Great Lakes States fear being drained by bottled-water giants

Scripps Howard News Service
Summer 2002

There is a growing national backlash against bottled water companies, especially market giant Perrier, by communities that fear local wells, wetlands and streams will be drained dry in the quest for corporate profits.

Proposals by bottlers to pump huge amounts of water from rural communities — in some cases as much as 500 gallons per minute — have drawn intense opposition in at least six states: Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin.

The battles have launched nearly a dozen citizen activist groups with names like "Save Our Springs," "Save America's Water," and "Save Our Groundwater." The issue has prompted the introduction of bills to tighten water laws in nearly all of the states where controversy has arisen and several governors have jumped into the fray. Lawsuits have been filed in Wisconsin and Michigan, including one by three Indian tribes. A recent legal case in Texas went all the way to the state Supreme Court.

In every state except New Hampshire, the water fights have involved the Perrier Group of America Inc., which sells more bottled water in the United States than any other company. Perrier is a subsidiary of the multinational conglomerate Nestle S.A. of Vevey, Switzerland, the world's largest food company.

Headquartered in Greenwich, Conn., the Perrier Group draws water from 75 spring sites across the country for 15 brands of bottled water, including the Ice Mountain, Deer Park, Zephyrhills, Poland Springs and Ozarka labels.

The controversy reflects the phenomenal success of the bottled water industry, which has annual sales of $35 billion worldwide. Bottled water sales in the United States have tripled in the past 10 years to $5.7 billion in 2000, according to Beverage Marketing Corp., a New York research and consulting firm. Bottled water is projected to surpass coffee and milk to become second in volume to soft drinks by 2004.

To meet demand, bottled water companies have had to expand their pumping operations and find new sites to drill wells. In 1990, 2.2 billion gallons of bottled water were sold in the United States, nearly all of it produced domestically. By 2005, sales are projected to top 7.2 billion gallons.

The bottled water fights are "a relatively new phenomenon," said Stephen Kay, a spokesman for the International Bottled Water Association. "It's a classic NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) issue."

Bottled water companies that invest millions of dollars in pumping operations and bottling plants have an interest in making sure aquifers aren't pumped to the point they can't recharge, Kay noted. "It wouldn't begin to make good business sense to come in and deplete a water resource and make it not viable," he said.

But large groundwater users don't have to pump groundwater to the point of no return before they adversely affect private wells and the environment, said University of New Hampshire professor Tom Ballestero, a civil engineer and hydrologist.

"The groundwater they are pumping and exporting was going somewhere before where it had an environmental (benefit)," Ballestero said. "Once you take it out, it's gone forever."

Perrier spokeswoman Jane Lazgin said residents in most places are pleased that the company is creating jobs and generating revenue in their community and that opponents are a vocal minority.

Perrier's opponents said local opposition to the company's projects is widespread, but small communities with limited money and expertise are at a disadvantage.

"It's David versus Goliath," said Terry Swier, 58, a retired librarian in rural Mecosta County, Mich., where Perrier has received permission from the state to construct a plant capable of bottling 260 million gallons of water a year from the local aquifer.

Swier, who had no previous experience in community activism, is president of Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, which was formed last year to fight the project. She now gives talks to groups across the state on the importance of protecting local water supplies.

The project has become a hot political issue in Michigan. Gov. John Engler, a Republican, has sided with Perrier, while state Attorney Gen. Jennifer Granholm and U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, both Democrats, oppose the project.

Last month, three northern Michigan Indian tribes sued Engler and the state agency that granted pumping permits to Perrier, arguing the project could impact rivers and streams that feed the Great Lakes.

This information is posted for nonprofit educational purposes, in accordance with U.S. Code Title 17, Chapter 1,Sec. 107 copyright laws.
For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for
purposes of your own that go beyond "fair use," you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Great Lakes environmental information

Return to Great Lakes Directory Home/ Site Map