Local activists say they aren’t giving up Florida’s water without a fight.
On Friday evening, advocates from Our Santa Fe River, Climate Action Gator and Sierra Club Suwannee will gather to protest a permit that would allow Nestlé Waters North America to take 1.152 million gallons from Ginnie Springs per day for bottled water.
Protesters will meet at 6 p.m. at 25 NE Railroad Ave. in High Springs. There will be speakers, followed by a march and rally held between Main Street and the Brewery of High Springs, said Michael Roth, a protest organizer and president of Our Santa Fe River, a group that advocates for protecting the river.
Roth said his organization’s goal is to raise awareness about the water bottling permit, as he’s realized few people are aware the river is classified as “in recovery” and will be devastated by the additional water draw.
“To use [the river water], to take it out of our area and transport it somewhere else is unconscionable in an area where resources are declining,” he said.
Seven Springs Water Co. had a 20-year permit that expired in June, which allowed it to bottle 1.2 million gallons of water a day from the river. The company applied for a 5-year renewal of the existing permit.
Nestle Waters released a statement on Aug. 6 that said the company is “adhering to all state standards regarding water withdrawals.” According to the release, the total volume of water used monthly by Seven Springs Water Co. will be reported to the district and published online.
Jenna Knobbe, a UF 19-year-old environmental management sophomore, said her friend who she recently attended a climate strike with invited her to the protest’s event on Facebook. While she’s not sure if she can attend the protest because of a previous commitment, she said she will try to make it because the cause is important to her.
“I think it is absolutely ridiculous that there is even consideration into giving Nestlé a permit to pump out of Ginnie Springs, considering the detrimental effects that it's going to have on our aquifer for the entire state of Florida,” she said.
Knobbe said if Nestlé were to begin pumping and bottling water out of Ginnie Springs, it would cause irreversible damage to Florida’s water supply.
“I think that's something that people should just keep in mind, that this is bigger than just us in Gainesville,” she said.