Not So Fast Nestlé: A Citizen’s Guide to Oppose Nestlé Water Grab

Bottled water

Nestlé has revived plans to more than double its pumping in Osceola County.

What’s At Stake

There’s a big fight brewing over water worldwide. From drought-stricken California, to Canada, to Germany and beyond, the Nestlé corporation is one of the key players in a worldwide effort to privatize our finite water resources and then sell it back to us in plastic bottles in and outside the Great Lakes Basin.

In 2009, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation (MCWC) ended a 10-year battle with Nestlé/Ice Mountain and won by reducing the amount of water being pumped so that nearby wetlands and streams would not be harmed in Mecosta County. The facts in the MCWC litigation demonstrate how Nestlé underestimated the harm aquifer over-pumping causes to adjacent surface waters, wetlands, fish, and aquatic life. FLOW’s founder and president, Jim Olson, represented MCWC as the lead litigator in this critical battle to safeguard our waters from privatization.

Since 2001, Swiss-owned Nestlé has removed more than 4 billion gallons of groundwater from its three Michigan wells in the Muskegon River watershed for a paltry $200 annual fee per well, according to MDEQ statistics.

Nestlé has now revived plans to more than double its pumping from 150 gallons per minute (gpm) to 400 gpm or 576,000 gallons per day (gpd) in Osceola County just north of Evart, Michigan.  Production Well PWB101, White Pine Springs Site, as it is known, is located between two cold water Muskegon River tributary creeks, Twin and Chippewa Creeks. Last winter, when Nestlé applied for this pumping increase using the state’s computer water withdrawal assessment tool, it failed. Nestle then requested and obtained a site specific review by DEQ staff that showed that only minimal declines in water levels in the summer of 2016.

If approved without full disclosure and public review, Nestlé would only create 20 new jobs, but would legally be entitled to bottle and sell nearly 500 million gallons per year of Michigan water at the Ice Mountain bottling facility in Stanwood, Michigan.

What You Can Do To Help

Please write an email letter to the DEQ at prior to April 21, 2017 at 5:00 p.m., and demand the following:

  • Urge the DEQ to oppose Nestlé/Ice Mountain’s current permit application to increase its allowed pumping from 150 to 400 gallons per minute (gpm) from White Pine Springs Well (PW-101), Osceola County, Michigan.
  • Demand the DEQ to set aside its January 2016 site-specific review for lack of public notice and comment;
  • Demand the DEQ complete an entirely new site specific review;
  • Demand the DEQ conduct site specific review on all permits issued to date to avoid incremental steps and registrations by Nestlé (this is in addition to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA);
  • Demand full disclosure and transparency to the public for informed decision-making.
  • Demand sufficient time for independent analysis and public involvement in Nestlé’s recent request.
  • Demand the State to apply the legal standards and requirements set forth in the Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool, riparian reasonable use law, public trust law, Great Lakes Compact, and the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
  • Request multiple public hearings in the following locations: Evart, Detroit, Flint, Muskegon, and Traverse City.

For your reference, we have included a template letter for you to use and craft your own letter.

If you live outside Michigan, we all know that what one state does in the Great Lakes Basin, affects all. As residents in the region, we cannot afford to allow significant increases in water withdrawals without sufficient time for independent analysis and public involvement.

If you live in one of the eight Great Lakes states or the provinces of Quebec and Montreal, we urge you to write your governor/premier. Ask that diversions of Great Lakes water in containers less than 5.7 gallons be added to the 2008 Great Lakes Compact.

Please think twice about drinking bottled water. Instead, insist all elected officials make clean, safe drinking water a priority. We can live without a lot of things but water is not one of them.


Template Letter

Governor Rick Snyder
P.O. Box 30013
Lansing, Michigan 48909

Attorney General Bill Schuette
G. Mennen Williams Building, 7th Floor
525 West Ottawa Street
P.O. Box 30212
Lansing, Michigan 48909

Director Heidi Grether
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ)
Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance
P.O. Box 30241
Lansing, MI  48909-7741

Division Director Bryce Feighner
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ)
Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance
P.O. Box 30241
Lansing, MI  48909-7741

Supervisor Matt Gamble
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ)
Source Water Unit
P.O. Box 30241
Lansing, MI  48909-7741

VIA Email Submission


Dear Governor, Attorney General, DEQ Director Grether, Division Director Feighner, and Supervisor Gamble:

I urge the State of Michigan and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to reject Nestlé/Ice Mountain’s current permit application to more than double its allowed groundwater pumping from 150 to 400 gallons per minute (gpm) from White Pine Springs Well (PW-101) in Osceola County, Michigan.    

By law, Nestlé’s proposed groundwater withdrawal must result in no “individual or cumulative adverse resource impacts,” and must be “in compliance with all applicable local, state, and federal laws as well as all legally binding regional interstate and international agreements.” Based on the following legal and technical deficiencies outlined below, the Nestlé application must be denied:

  1. Nestlé has not submitted sufficient critical information on which the DEQ can make a “reasonable determination” in accordance with the standards set forth in the applicable water laws of Michigan.
  2. The application is technically deficient because:

(a) The information and evaluation of groundwater, wetlands, springs, and streams is based on an unreliable, manipulated computer model that looks narrowly at the proposed 150 gpm pumping level increase, and not the cumulative 400 gallons-per-minute;

(b) The application fails to rely on observed existing hydrology, soils, environment, and other conditions, in violation of Michigan’s water withdrawal law, which mandates evaluation of existing conditions;

(c) Nestlé’s consultants failed to collect or use real conditions to compare to its unfounded, computer modeling predictions of no effects; and

(d) The model assumes more water in the natural system than exists, assumes more rain and snowfall gets into groundwater than actually occurs, used only selective monitoring for 2001-2002, and left out monitoring data from 2003 to present because it would show more negative impact to streams, wetlands, and wildlife.

  1. Nestlé has not filed its existing pumping records, and its pumping to date has violated Michigan law because it has pumped and transported water without authorizations required by Section 17 of the Safe Drinking Water Act and the applicable Section 32723 of the state’s water law.
  1. Four hundred (400) gpm will diminish the twin creeks and wetlands, which in turn will impair and harm the water, aquatic resources, and public trust in those natural resources, contrary to Michigan law.

Despite a supplemental information request to Nestlé in February, the MDEQ still do not have sufficient information from Nestlé related to the groundwater modeling, streamflow data, fish, macroinvertebrates, and aquatic habitat data, as well as the company’s compliance with Michigan’s reasonable use doctrine and related water laws. Accordingly, the application as it stands now must be denied for failure to show that its proposed pumping will not harm the creeks, wetlands, streams, species, and ecosystem. In addition, Nestlé’s deficient record raises questions as to whether the company received proper authorization in 2015 to increase its pumping from 150 to 250 gpm.

Nestlé’s proposed 167 percent expansion increase request continues to put our public waters at risk. Remember that Michigan’s 12,000 year old glacial sand, gravel and clay and ancient groundwater is recharged by only 8 or 9 inches a year of precipitation – about 30 percent of an average of 32 inches a year in the form of snowfall and rain during the rainy season. The rest of the year is dry with frequent drought in the summer months such that these headwater streams and creeks simply cannot survive; pumping at Nestlé’s proposed rate is simply not sustainable, and the MDEQ should deny this request outright.

Water is public. Water is also our most precious finite resource that is the lifeblood of our economy, our health, and our way of life here in the Great Lakes Basin. Privatizing our waters for profit and export outside our watersheds is a legally-defined harm. As public trustee of our waters, the State of Michigan is legally bound, on behalf of current citizens and future generations, to protect this resource from impairment, harm, or privatization for solely private purposes. This is the law.

The nonprofit, FLOW (For Love of Water), intends to submit additional substantive technical and legal comments to the MDEQ related to this permit application. Based on Nestlé’s legally and technical deficient application, I urge the State of Michigan to deny this permit and to impose a statewide moratorium on any new high volume wells near headwater creeks or for bottled water until these issues are addressed. 

Thank you for fulfilling your public trust obligations to safeguard our most precious resource – water.




Further Reading

“DEQ sets table for strict review of Nestle water bid” (MLive, Feb. 7, 2017)

“Where will the water go? A snapshot of recent changes in Michigan water law” (Michigan Real Property Review, Winter 2006)

“How Michigan water becomes a product inside Nestle’s Ice Mountain plant” (MLive, Dec. 8, 2016)

“Why Nestle really wants more Michigan groundwater” (MLive, Dec. 6, 2016)

“Public wasn’t adequately notified of Nestle water request, says DEQ director” (MLive, Dec. 5, 2016)

“Flint hits chemical company with $2.6M in fines over industrial waste” (MLive, Dec. 5, 2016)

“DEQ overruled computer model that flunked Nestle groundwater bid” (MLive, Nov. 22, 2016)

“DEQ pushes Nestle groundwater bid public review into next year” (MLive, Nov. 22, 2016)

31 comments on “Not So Fast Nestlé: A Citizen’s Guide to Oppose Nestlé Water Grab

  1. Patricia Stites on

    I copied and pasted and sent! It’s the 2nd time in two weeks I’ve sent mail there. I sincerely hope we can stop this rape of our water!
    Thank you for all you do!!

  2. Nancy Schneider on

    The resources of our planet are not up for grabs by any organization with the capacity to dig, carve, pump or otherwise remove them for profit. In this case, not to mention the millions of little empty plastic bottles that have to go SOMEWHERE.
    Where is the respect for the planet?

  3. nancy e burmeister on

    I want to do all I can to stop Nestle but I have a concern that I think is actually greater. Michigan Potash LLC is planning a huge potash plant to straddle the border between Osceola and Mecosta Counties (Hersey, MI area).
    We need to stop Nestle but we also really need to stop this plant!

  4. An Anon on

    Just FYI: Nestles intends to “own” or “control” all the drinking water in the world. Look beyond Michigan at the springs in Florida (the most springs of the highest magnitude in the world) and in the other places worldwide – their footprint is very big.
    Local and state governments are “selling” or “leasing” or giving away the rights to something THAT IS NOT THEIR TO GIVE. They are only the caretakers, NOT THE OWNERS.
    Monsanto wants to control the seeds for the food of the world.
    WalMart intends to control the milk market.
    And Nestles, the water of the world.
    Think about it!

  5. Joe Hollmann on

    This water is our natural resource in Michigan and should not be able to be used for production by bottling it for public sale. Enough is enough.

  6. Alicia Rusch on

    We have not yet resolved water issues in Flint and yet Governor Snyder, you continue to take steps that jeopardize the health and welfare of Michigan citizens by allowing our water, the very sustenance for life, to be used for the interest of profit before people. Please stop this nonsense and focus instead on fixing the current water issues that threaten the health of citizens in our state.

  7. Thomas Hickey on

    Now is the time I that PEOPLE of EARTH claim there ownership of all land resources and water! Water is not to be sold for Corporate profit! I live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin so I realize how important it is to protect the Great Lakes and it’s watersheds ! NO PROFIT FOR WATER!

  8. Robert Peckham on

    Time to stop this pillage of our natural resources by a corporation. All Nestle water draws should cease immediately.

  9. Anne W. Kelly on

    This water is not only MIchigan’s natural resource, but a resource for the EARTH. We have to keep up the fight to protect it from profiteers. Thank you, FLOW for all your important work!
    ~Anne Kelly

  10. Ruth Frost on

    Our natural resources are worth fighting for. I am happy to sign my name to this. It is a crime to see all these plastic bottles being disposed of in our trash when most of us have safe water in our homes.

  11. Nancy Crisp on

    Please protect our natural and vital resource of water. It is not for sale to Nestles and should remain out of corporations for our children, grandchildren and on. There is no excuse for selling our water. Thank you for making the right decision.

  12. tom clark on

    Will we never learn?
    What legacy will our current administration in Lansing leave for the citizens of Michigan?
    Groundwater, a natural and precious resources belonging to everyone is being given away. How do you people in Lansing sleep at night?

  13. Max Old Bear on

    So much for Michigan as the “Water Wonderland” state and “Pure Michigan”.
    We will be known as the “Water for Profit” state or “Water as Oil” state.
    The big oil companies will see how easy it is to harvest water in Michigan and lease water rights and sell our precious public natural resources. Max Old Bear

  14. Janis Wesley on

    Please do not allow Nestle to take any more water!!!! Support the Great Lakes instead of corporate greed and bad business practices. Our lives depend on it.

  15. Anne Montgomery on

    Water is for life. Without the necessary water to sustain life in the future, Michigan will be a wasteland for our children and future generations. I resent corporations taking the public’s natural resources and making profit which does not return to the public or benefit any of those who live by the land. Stop Nestles…we should have known better from the start. Shame on the Michigan legislature from the beginning of this contract with Nestles.

  16. Donna Miller on

    Water is necessary for human life and must not be reduced to a commodity, especially for the gain of an enormous, greedy corporation. Please halt the stealing of our natural resource for profit NOW!

  17. John McDonald on

    Water should not be sold for profit, because if we allow one corporation to take water from our water basin for their gain, where does it stop?

    Charge the companies ten percent of their profits using our resources and return it to the state to clean our environment. Otherwise, don’t sell it because where does it end?

  18. on

    In the spectrum between rich, evil corporations and corporations scraping by while adhering to a perfect set of values, a new study has found that there is a set of 25 corporate giants that are managing to succeed while at least making a concerted effort at not destroying anything.

  19. Gary Cozette on

    As we enter 2021, what is the current status of restricting Nestle’s access to groundwater in Osceola County and elsewhere in northern Michigan? Are there updated action alerts?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *