In Ginnie Springs, northern Florida, Nestlé is battling local humans and turtles for their water supply. The giant food and beverage company wants to extract 1.1 million gallons per day from the natural springs for bottled water. Residents say that taking so much water will harm the springs and the ecosystem and will deplete their own supply of drinking water.

Earlier this year, Nestlé bought a water bottling plant at nearby High Springs and sunk millions into upgrading it, anticipating that the local water board would approve this level of extraction. But the Suwannee River water management district has deemed the Santa Fe River — where the spring is located — in recovery. Years of overpumping have taken their toll.

Related: US Forest Service allows Nestlé to continue taking water from California national forest

For now, Nestlé is waiting on the water management district to decide whether or not to renew an expired water use permit. If renewed, Seven Springs, the local company that owns the permit, plans to sell it to Nestlé.

Nestlé said that spring water is a renewable resource that it will manage well. In a written statement, Nestlé spokesperson Adam Gaber said, “Our business depends on the quality and sustainability of the water we are collecting. It would make no sense to invest millions of dollars into 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 people and as a company.”

Many local environmentalists don’t trust Nestlé’s intentions. “It’s impossible to withdraw millions of gallons of water and not have an impact,” said Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, a director of the nonprofit Our Santa Fe River. Malwitz-Jipson also worried about the 11 native turtle species and four non-native species found in the river. “Few places on Earth have as many turtle species living together, and about a quarter of all North American freshwater turtle species inhabit this small river system.”

So far, opponents to the bottled water scheme have set up an online petition and forum calling for the water management district to deny the permit. The decision may be announced as soon as November.

Via The Guardian

Image via Paul Clark