You can see aisles with Nestlé water bottles in stores around the state. But it is where the water is coming from that concerns environmental activists, like Clifford Mitchem.
“You have a bottled water company extracting from the aquifer,” said Mitchem, group chair for Sierra Club Calusa. “People treat the aquifer like it’s infinite resources, but it’s actually something that’s finite.”
Currently, Florida allows Seven Springs, the company Nestle buys its water from, to take more than 1.1 million gallons of water each day for a $115 annual permit fee. Dem. Sen. Annette Toddeo, a Florida state senator, said other water bottling companies pay local municipalities for water and she believes Nestlé should pay a tax for water from our springs, too.
“Water is Florida’s oil,” Toddeo said. “That is our most precious resource. We charge for oil. We charge for all kinds of natural resources. Why in the world are we not charging for water?”
Taddeo proposed a bill that would force Nestle to pay a 12.5 cent tax for every gallon of water they pump from the springs. But now, that bill has been tabled.
Lawmakers pushed back during the legislative session on Tuesday, arguing an excise tax on water may be unconstitutional. Nestle said such a tax would immediately lead to layoffs, with the possibility of the food and beverage company leaving Florida and taking its hundreds of jobs with it.
Taddeo told WINK News she decided to postpone the debate while her fellow lawmakers research her plan. She is not sure if the bill will resurface this session. But if it is passed, the tax revenue would be allocated to water pollution control projects.
A Nestlé Waters North America spokesperson, in a statement to WINK News, said:
“Nestlé Waters North America has expressed concerns regarding filed legislation, which unfairly target one, relatively small, type of water user in the state…We have worked to be a good neighbor in Florida for decades. It would make absolutely no sense for us to invest millions of dollars into local operations just to deplete the natural resources on which our business relies.”
“Nestlé Waters pays Seven Springs, a locally based company that holds the water use permit, for water and has done so since February of 2019.The rate Nestlé Waters pays Seven Springs for water from Ginnie Springs is comparable to the rates paid by municipal water purchasers in Tampa, Gainesville, and other Florida locations.”