On May 10, 2002 Ice Mountain Spring Water Company, a division of Nestle Waters North America (formerly Perrier Group of America), announced that its water bottling plant has begun bottling water pumped from its wells in Mecosta County, Michigan. Under current Michigan law, groundwater withdrawals are regulated by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality under the Safe Drinking Water Act, focusing largely on water quality and little on the quantity of water being used.
The quantity of water being pumped from groundwater can have detrimental impacts on surface water resources such as rivers and lakes, as well as affecting the groundwater aquifer itself. Additionally, many relatively small local withdrawals from groundwater or surface water sources for uses outside of the Great Lakes could add up to affect the Great Lakes ecosystem as a whole.
A lawsuit was brought in September 2001 by a citizens group, the Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, in Mecosta County Circuit Court asking for a declaration that the Perrier water withdrawal project is contrary to Michigan water and public trust law. Terry Swier, President of the citizens group said “the public trust protects the citizens rights in these waters for fishing, boating, swimming, and survival,” adding “water for pure profit violates the public trust and robs Michigan of its most vital heritage.”
The matter of bottling water and selling it outside of the Great Lakes Basin raises an important issue for the protection of the waters of the state of Michigan and the Great Lakes in the future. The Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council believes that it is important for the state of Michigan to develop a comprehensive water use policy that considers both the quality and quantity of water being used for any purpose, and promotes conservation of our precious freshwater resources.
For more information about Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation’s (MCWC) lawsuit, see MCWC’s website at www.saveMIwater.org.
A video entitled “Water Wars; the battle against Perrier in Michigan”, depicting MCWC and other groups in the “David and Goliath” fight against Perrier is available from Eartha Melzer at 231-942-9296 or firstname.lastname@example.org.