Opinion

Commentary: Water bottlers enjoying Florida's public spigot

You probably thought there was a serious water shortage in Florida.

It's why we're spending billions to repair and repurify the Everglades, right? It's why we're not supposed to run our lawn sprinklers more than once or twice a week.

But hold on. It turns out there's a boundless, virtually free supply of Florida water – though not for residents. The public spigot remains open day and night for Nestle, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and 19 other corporations that bottle our water and sell it for a huge per-unit profit.

The stuff is no safer or tastier than most municipal tap water, but lots of us buy it, anyway. You know all the brands: Deer Park, Dasani, Zephyrhills, Aquafina, even Publix.

Common sense would suggest that a company with a balance sheet like Coca-Cola's or Pepsi's ought to pay for the water they take, the same as homeowners and small businesses do.

Nope. Every year, state water managers allow large bottling firms to siphon nearly two billion gallons from fresh springs and aquifers. The fees are laughably puny.

For example, it cost Nestle Waters of North America the grand sum of $150 for a permit to remove as much water as it pleases from the Blue Springs in Madison County. Every day, Nestle pipes about 500,000 gallons, enough to fill 102,000 plastic bottles that are then shipped to stores and supermarkets throughout the Southeast.

Even by Florida standards, the scale of this public rip-off is mind-bending.

To read the complete column, visit www.miamiherald.com.

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