Is Bottled Water Sucking Florida Dry? Get the Facts.

  1. Can you tell me about Nestlé Waters North America’s operations in Florida?
  2. What is the relationship between Nestlé Waters and Seven Springs?
  3. Does Nestlé Waters hold the water use permit for Ginnie Springs? What is the status of the permit?
  4. Who pumps the water from Ginnie Springs?
  5. How much water does Nestlé Waters currently purchase from Seven Springs, and are there plans to increase that amount?
  6. Is Nestlé Waters receiving water free of charge from Ginnie Springs?
  7. Is your purchase of water preventing aquifers in Florida from recharging?
  8. How do you evaluate the potential effects of spring water withdrawal on other water users and the surrounding environment for spring water sources you use in Florida?
  9. Is it true that Nestlé Waters gives nothing back to the local communities in Florida?
  10. I’ve heard that the water from Ginnie Springs suffers from nitrate pollution. What is Nestlé Waters doing to ensure the water bottled from Ginnie Springs is safe to drink?

1. Can you tell me about Nestlé Waters North America’s operations in Florida?

For decades, Nestlé Waters North America (NWNA) has worked to be a good neighbor in  Florida. We support communities across the state through job creation, water education, donations, and partnerships.

NWNA is proud to provide more than 800 jobs across Florida, spending approximately $58 million annually on payroll and providing benefits to our full-time employees.

We produce bottled water in Florida for three NWNA brands – Zephyrhills® Brand Natural Spring Water, Deer Park® Brand Natural Spring Water and Nestlé® Pure Life®. 

These three brands source their water from five different locations in Florida: Crystal Springs in Crystal Springs (Pasco County), Cypress Springs in Vernon (Washington County), Blue Springs in Lee (Madison County), Ginnie Springs in High Springs (Gilchrist County), and White Springs in White Springs (Hamilton County).

NWNA purchased the Ice River Springs bottling facility in High Springs at the end of December 2018. To supply its High Springs bottling facility, NWNA buys water from Seven Springs Water Company, a locally based company that holds the water use permit. In addition to paying for the water, NWNA also pays for the cost associated with bottling infrastructure, maintaining a quality product, and delivery of water. We are currently expanding our High Springs bottling facility, and we anticipate that expansion will increase the number of employees by more than 60 percent by the end of 2019.

NWNA currently manages two other spring water bottling facilities in Florida:

  • The Lee plant in Madison County Florida that has a 15-year record of accomplishment in sustainable management between withdrawals relative to Madison Blue Springs and flow in the Withlacoochee River. 
  • The Zephyrhills plant in Pasco County that has more than 30 years of sustainable management between Crystal Springs and the Hillsborough River. 

The data collected at these two facilities on withdrawal rates and aquifer levels demonstrate successful long-term management of water resources.

2. What is the relationship between Nestlé Waters and Seven Springs?

Nestlé Waters North America (NWNA) purchased the Ice River Springs bottling facility in High Springs at the end of December 2018. This strategically located facility enables NWNA to more efficiently serve current and future customers.

To supply its High Springs bottling facility, NWNA buys water from Seven Springs Water Company, a locally based company that holds the water use permit. In addition to paying for the water, NWNA also pays for the cost associated with bottling infrastructure, maintaining a quality product, and delivery of water.

Seven Springs has held its permit for more than 20 years. During this time, it sustainably supplied spring water to all of the previous bottled water and beverage companies that operated the High Springs factory before NWNA purchased the factory from Ice River.

3. Does Nestlé Waters hold the water use permit for Ginnie Springs? What is the status of the permit?

No, a locally based company called Seven Springs holds the valid water use permit associated with Ginnie Springs. As the permit holder, Seven Springs is governed by local and state authorities just like all other water use permit holders. That means they have the right to use and sell the permitted amount of water – and no more than that – whether to Nestlé Waters North America (NWNA) or to anyone else. This has been the case for the last 20 years.

Just like all the previous owners of the High Springs factory which manufactured bottled water and other beverages, NWNA is buying water from Seven Springs, the permit holder.

Seven Springs received its permit from the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD), which is responsible for managing water and related natural resources in north-central Florida. SRWMD conducts water quality and quantity monitoring, research, regulation, land acquisition and management, and flood protection.

Recently, Seven Springs requested a five-year renewal of their existing 20-year permit for the same allotment of water allowed under their current permit, which allows them to withdraw and sell up to 1.152 million gallons of water a day. This permit remains in effect until the permit renewal review process is complete.

By way of context, according to a United States Geological Survey (USGS) Surface Water Station 02322500 at the Santa Fe River near Fort White and the Ginnie Springs site, the maximum amount of water withdrawals allowed by the permit held by Seven Springs (approximately 1.2 million gallons a day) represents less than one half of one percent (0.5%) of the average flow of the Santa Fe River at the USGS 02322500 site. This is an estimate based upon observed daily flows in the river by the USGS for the last 33 years.

4. Who pumps the water from Ginnie Springs?

Seven Springs holds the permit for water use. Seven Springs makes the withdrawals and is responsible to maintain the wells and ensure that their withdrawals don’t go beyond the permitted amount. Seven Springs sells the water to NWNA.

5. How much water does Nestlé Waters currently purchase from Seven Springs, and are there plans to increase that amount?

Nestlé Waters North America (NWNA) currently buys less water than the bottled water companies that previously owned the High Springs factory; however, we anticipate that over time, the amount of water we buy from Seven Springs will increase, as consumer demand for healthy beverages like water increases.

Regardless of increasing consumer demand, we will never purchase more water than what is permissible by the permit. Using water beyond the permitted amount would be cause for action by the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD), which can include fines or possible revocation of Seven Springs’ water use permit.

It’s important to understand that the Seven Springs permit requires the permit holders to report the total volume of water used monthly. This information is provided to the SRWMD who post it online for review by the public.  The amount of water Seven Springs uses will continue to be a matter of public record.

By way of context, according to a United States Geological Survey (USGS) Surface Water Station 02322500 at the Santa Fe River near Fort White and the Ginnie Springs site, the maximum amount of water withdrawals allowed by the permit held by Seven Springs (approximately 1.2 million gallons a day) represents less than one half of one percent (O.5%) of the average flow of the Santa Fe River at the USGS 02322500 site. This is an estimate based upon observed daily flows in the river by the USGS for the last 33 years.

Spring water is a rapidly renewable resource when managed correctly, and NWNA is committed to sustainable spring water management at all of the springs we manage – in Florida and across the country. 

6. Is Nestlé Waters receiving water free of charge from Ginnie Springs?

No, this is incorrect. 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.

In addition to paying Seven Springs for the water, we also pay for the cost associated with bottling infrastructure maintaining a quality product, and delivery of water.

7. Is your purchase of water preventing aquifers in Florida from recharging?

At Nestlé Waters North America (NWNA), our commitment to maintaining the health and long-term sustainability of Florida’s waterways is a top priority. Spring water is a rapidly renewable resource when managed correctly, and NWNA is committed to sustainable spring water management at all of the springs we manage – in Florida and across the country.

NWNA will collaborate with Seven Springs to sustainably manage withdrawals of spring water at Ginnie Springs, as we do at our other Florida springs. For the past 15 years, our Lee facility in Madison County has sustainably managed withdrawals relative to Madison Blue Springs and flow in the Withlacoochee River.  Our Zephyrhills facility in Pasco County has more than 30 years of sustainable management between Crystal Springs and the Hillsborough River. The data collected at these two facilities on withdrawal rates and aquifer levels demonstrate successful long-term management of water resources.

Water use in the lower Santa Fe River basin, where Ginnie Springs is located, is regulated by the Suwanee River Water Management District (SRWMD).  They are tasked with managing the regional balance between water withdrawal and aquifer water levels.  NWNA’s purchase of spring water will always remain within the level of Seven Springs’ permit, which was granted by the SWRMD.

It’s important to understand that, according to a United States Geological Survey (USGS) Surface Water Station 02322500 at the Santa Fe River near Fort White and the Ginnie Springs site, the maximum amount of water withdrawals allowed by the permit held by Seven Springs (approximately 1.2 million gallons a day) represents less than one half of one percent (O.5%) of the average flow of the Santa Fe River at the USGS 02322500 site. This is an estimate based upon observed daily flows in the river by the USGS for the last 33 years.
We are working with Seven Springs to implement a robust sustainability management process that will help ensure the long-term sustainability and health of Ginnie Springs. Here are some examples of actions taken to date:

  • Installing a series of monitoring wells to measure water level and the water quality of the site. We installed this system in the first six months of  beginning our work with Seven Springs. As we learn more about the site, depending on what the science tells us, we will enhance the monitoring program.
  • Working closely with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) and county government, all organizations that have been tasked by the State to maintain the sustainability of springs in Florida.
  • Deploying a natural resource manager and a team of water resource professionals who focus on helping to ensure the sustainability of the spring. These experts monitor and maintain ongoing records on the health of Ginnie Springs.
  • Using locally collected information on climate, water levels in the Floridian aquifer, water quality in the Floridian aquifer, and other relevant data to develop a sustainability approach specific to Ginnie Springs and our High Springs plant. 
  • Lastly, diversifying our sources throughout our operations in Florida to ensure we are not over-relying on any single source to satisfy customer demand.

We withdraw water from five spring sources in Florida: Crystal Springs in Crystal Springs (Pasco County), Cypress Springs in Vernon (Washington County), Blue Springs in Lee (Madison County), Ginnie Springs in High Springs (Gilchrist County), and White Springs in White Springs (Liberty County).

The amount of water we withdraw from each source varies on a day-to-day basis, since our business varies seasonally, depending on the demand from our customers.

It would make absolutely no sense to invest millions of dollars into our local operations just to deplete the natural resources on which our business relies. It would undermine the success of our business and go against every value we hold as a people, Floridians and as a company.    

8. How do you evaluate the potential effects of spring water withdrawal on other water users and the surrounding environment for spring water sources you use in Florida?

Ginnie Springs is a very large spring complex generating many millions of gallons of water daily. In the first six months of working with Seven Springs, Nestlé Waters North America(NWNA) installed multiple monitoring points  at separate locations and depths. This allows us to understand and monitor water flow direction and aquifer levels in this area of the Ginnie Springs Springshed. Additionally, we are installing instruments to monitor the water quality parameters at key locations.

Seven Springs and NWNA diligently conduct the following monitoring activity on an ongoing basis:

  • Evaluate the potential effects of spring water collection on other water users and the surrounding environment.  Conversely, we also evaluate the effects other water users in the area may be having on us;
  • Assess inputs (recharge) and outputs (withdrawals) on aquifer levels; and,
  • Conduct in-person site visits to observe spring sources and surface water features.

9. Is it true that Nestlé Waters gives nothing back to the local communities in Florida?

Nestlé Waters North America (NWNA), which owns Zephyrhills® Brand Natural Spring Water, has worked to be a good neighbor in Florida for decades. We bring social and economic value to the communities where we operate by hiring local vendors, paying local taxes, donating to local charities, enabling and encouraging our employees to volunteer, and sharing our experience in water resource management. We create high-paying jobs with good benefits – as of last year, NWNA employs more than 800 people in the state of Florida, and spends more than $58 million annually on payroll. We also invest in many community projects, from watershed protection to waste cleanup to disaster relief and emergency donations.

Some examples of this:

  • In 2018, we partnered with the Northwest Florida Water Management District (NWFWMD) to create a conservation easement at Cypress Spring in Washington County. This 309-acre conservation easement enables the NWFWMD to create and maintain a public park at the spring.
  • Through our partnerships with the WaterVentures mobile science lab and the Crystal Springs Foundation established in 2013, we have educated more than two million students throughout the state about being good stewards of the state’s water resources and protecting Florida's springs.
  • We worked with Keep America Beautiful in 2017 to fund 220 recycling bins across Florida to increase access to recycling on beaches and at other public recreation locations along Florida’s waterways.
  • Starting in 2008, we supported efforts to protect the Crystal Springs Preserve from a proposed landfill facility that many believed would have negatively impacted the preserve, spring and Hillsborough River.
  • In addition to such close collaborations, part of our community commitment is, in times of crisis, to also lend support to those who need it most – including many first responders and other organizations through donations of water, food, and supplies. In fact, over the past three years, we have donated more than four million bottles of water to those impacted by hurricanes in Florida. Bottled water is a readily available alternative in times where access to clean, safe drinking water becomes limited. We are grateful to be in a position to provide this assistance, and we support programs to help ensure water is always available when and where it is needed.

10. I’ve heard that the water from Ginnie Springs suffers from nitrate pollution. What is Nestlé Waters doing to ensure the water bottled from Ginnie Springs is safe to drink?

All water contains some amount of nitrates, and the FDA has set a limit of 10 mg per liter for bottled water.  Our frequent quality testing shows that the nitrate level in our products in Florida is significantly lower than the FDA limit. In 2018, results for Zephyrhills® Brand 100% Natural Spring Water products ranged from 1.8-2.5 mg per liter.

We share the concern about groundwater contamination and support good science-based groundwater protection efforts and regulation. As groundwater protection is important to us, we want to work with others who have the same mindset and goals, including  non-governmental organizations, the Suwanee River Water Management District (SRWMD), and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, to help keep these levels from increasing and promote land management practices that could help levels decrease.

Consumers who buy our products can trust the high quality of our water. Bottled water is one of the most extensively regulated packaged-food products available, and at Nestlé Waters North America, we go to great lengths to provide high-quality bottled water products. 

Our technicians test our products multiple times throughout the production process to help ensure that those products meet or exceed Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as well as our own, more stringent standards.

More information is available in our Bottled Water Quality Reports, which are available here.