Tag: water withdrawal

FLOW Statement on MDEQ Approval of Nestlé Water Extraction Permit

The MDEQ and the Snyder Administration have failed (again) to fulfill their public trust responsibilities as defenders of our waters.

While we are continuing to analyze the state permit and accompanying documentation, and will have a comprehensive response in the near future, some things are clear.  The DEQ issued Nestlé a permit to pump up to 400 gallons per minute, or 576,000 gallons per day, on the condition that Nestlé submit a monitoring plan and hydrogeologic measurements on flows and levels and agree to reduce pumping to 250 gallons per minute when the measurements show adverse effects.

The DEQ is going to issue the permit now and wait to make the determination of harm later.  This is not a “reasonable basis for a determination” of effects before the permit was issued, which was what the law required.

We’re disappointed that the MDEQ not only ignored the clear opposition of tens of thousands of Michigan citizens who have opposed this giveaway of publicly-owned water, but also ignored serious deficiencies in Nestlé’s application.

Michigan went down the wrong path a decade ago when it approved a law treating private capture of water and sale for profit as just another water withdrawal.  It is not.  Commercialization of public water is a betrayal of the public trust.


Help Stop an Attack on Michigan’s Water

Should Michigan law make it easier for special interests to grab large amounts of water without public oversight?

Most citizens would say no, but the Michigan Legislature is considering a “yes.”  The State House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday, February 28 at 9 a.m. on a bill, HB 5638, giving automatic approval to proposals for major water extraction projects by agribusiness – shifting the burden to the state DEQ to prove such proposals will be harmful.

Even worse, the data justifying the extraction would be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. The public would be denied the critical information used to decide new large quantity water withdrawals, the impact they are causing, or how they were approved.

As FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood said of this and other recent legislation, “I think what these new bills represent is a new strategy to just wholesale remove the state of Michigan’s oversight of its public water resources.”

You can help protect Michigan’s water by:


Our water wealth supports and sustains multiple water-dependent sectors of Michigan economy – industry, tourism, recreation, commerce, and agriculture.  The Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool (WWAT) is a vital tool in ensuring that water remains plentiful and available to fulfill future needs. 

HB 5638 circumvents the WWAT by allowing a company to secure a water permit based on a presumption of no harm backed by its own hydrogeological reports and information.  This information would be exempt from FOIA; in effect this is a license to steel water from our creeks, watersheds, wetlands, a license to cause harm.

In MCWC v. Nestle, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that under our common law any water use or withdrawal must maintain adequate water in the stream to sustain the ecology of the stream and to sustain the other uses made of the water by others.  HB 5638 violates this rule of law.

Moreover, Art 4, Sec. 52 of our State Constitution mandates that the legislature “shall provide by law for the protection of water and other natural resources from impairment or destruction.”  HB 5638 will result in impairment and destruction of water resources of state, and therefore violates the Michigan Constitution.

Availability of data to state and federal agencies and local governments is essential so that government can administer our water laws sustainably and provide proper oversight and stewardship.  We now have the data and analytical tools and capabilities to exercise extraordinary foresight in ensuring that water is used sustainably and is always available for our future needs and future generations.

HB 5638 undermines the legacy of good governance to which you have aspired.  The bill is a step backward – instead of supporting a more robust understanding of water availability, it reduces the amount of data and information available, interfering with our ability to make informed decisions.


Michigan Officials Direct Nestlé to Reexamine Impact to Freshwater Resources of Increased Pumping Proposal


Acting in part on scientific evidence developed and submitted by FLOW and our expert team, the Michigan Department of Environmental has directed Swiss water-bottling giant Nestlé to reassess the likely impact on local wetlands, streams, and natural springs of its application to dramatically increase water extraction to 210 million gallons a year near Evart, northeast of Big Rapids. 

The state action is an important step forward in protecting vulnerable water resources, as Nestlé Ice Mountain seeks a state permit to more than double its spring water withdrawal from the current rate of 150 gallons-per-minute (gpm) to 400 gpm, or as much as 576,000 gallons-per-day, from its White Pine Springs well No. 101 in the headwaters of Chippewa and Twin creeks in Osceola County.

“Staff have endeavored to complete their review with the information provided and, in light of input from Nestlé’s experts, have concluded that the information, analysis, data, and explanation provided does not yet provide the DEQ with a reasonable basis to make the determination if the requirements” in the law will be met, James Gamble of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality wrote the company on June 21.

The DEQ requested that Nestlé provide, among other things, a revised groundwater model using improved methods to evaluate the interaction between the streams, aquifers, and wetlands and detailed water budget analyses – including sources of water and assumptions – during wet, normal and dry years.

“It shows that science and law still matter and must come before corporate schemes to turn the public’s water into a private commodity,” said Jim Olson, FLOW’s president and founder, who as a Traverse City environmental attorney previously fought Nestlé in court on behalf of the Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation. “The DEQ should be commended for upholding the law to its highest standard, which is to require evidence of actual impact before approving the permit.”

It is the second time the DEQ has sought more information on Nestlé's July 2016 permit application for the highly controversial proposal, which is part of the company’s $36 million planned expansion of its Ice Mountain bottling plant in Stanwood. Hundreds of people in April attended a state public hearing to oppose to permit, and tens of thousands submitted public comments in opposition.

The MDEQ is reviewing Nestle's application under Section 17 of the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act, a regulation specific to Michigan water bottlers developed in response to environmental concerns sparked by Nestle's original Sanctuary Springs wellfield. It's the first Section 17 application to be reviewed since the law passed. The statute is tie-barred with the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, which states that groundwater pumping must have no "individual or cumulative adverse resource impacts."

In reviewing Nestlé's application this spring, FLOW requested that a team of scientists – Dave Hyndman, PhD, an expert in hydrogeology, and Mark Luttenton, PhD, with expertise in stream and wetlands – review the Nestlé application. 

Dr. Hyndman’s evaluation found that Nestlé’s “application does not fully evaluate the existing hydrologic, hydrogeological, or other physical and environmental conditions because: (1) Data collected between 2001 and the onset of pumping in 2009 do not appear to be used or evaluated; (2) The seven or eight years of data on the effects of pumping at 150 gpm when pumping started in 2009 have not been used or evaluated.”

Dr. Luttenton found that the information submitted and evaluated is insufficient for the MDEQ to make a determination of effects, impacts, harms, and impairment of Nestle’s proposal, including likely impacts on:

-Fish species
-Invertebrate communities
-Existing physical conditions, including upstream or in surrounding seeps and unnamed small creeks
-Wetlands and plant species

“Based on my analysis to date, my opinion is that the water withdrawal by Nestlé’s [proposal] will, or is very likely to cause environmental impacts to the surface water resources in the region,” Dr. Luttenton concluded. “In addition, my opinion is that during low flow and low water level conditions, there is inadequate water in the Chippewa Creek, Twin Creek, and other surface water features, to prevent probable impairment, degradation, or harm to the aquatic and ecological system, including fish and fish habitat.”