Hope lingers in advocates’ efforts to stop Nestlé from increasing water use in Florida springs

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WFLA) – A battle continues as Nestlé Waters continues its efforts to expand a permit from Seven Springs Water Co. to take more than a million gallons a day from a popular tourist spot in Florida.

Outdoors enthusiasts and conservation activists, however, are holding out hope after the third request for more information came from the Suwannee River Water Management District.

8 On Your Side reported when Seven Springs Water Co. – a supplier to Nestlé – attempted to expand its permit last November to allow four times more water to be bottled than previously allowed. That came after the company’s former permit expired in June.

Now the Suwannee River Water Management District is asking for more in-depth information on the environmental impacts of the expanded permit.

According to conservationists, the third request – which activists are calling “unusual” – invokes notification to the governor’s office and the office of the secretary of DEP.

“So far, so good,” Michael Roth, president of a conservation nonprofit called Our Santa Fe River, said in an email. “This third RAI extends the determination of this renewal application to a year after it was initially filed. Throughout this time, pumping is grandfathered in, which is disturbing, although Nestle hasn’t been pumping near capacity yet. ”

Ginnie Springs, located in the Santa Fe River, has already been deemed a fragile environment. It’s been labeled as “in recovery” by the Suwannee River Water Management District after decades of bottling companies draining more than 270,000 gallons a day.

“Concurrently, the SRWMD is revisiting its minimum flows and levels for the Santa Fe River, using a new model which conveniently allows additional pumping from the Santa Fe,” Roth said. “This bogus conclusion will go a long way toward helping the board’s collective conscience if they ultimately approve the permit.”

The deadline for the information request is Feb. 25.

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