Thursday, November 8, 2007

Water: Them Are Fightin' Words, Ma'am

With respect to meeting growing demand, what measures have Floridians taken to curb consumption or expand water supply?

Interesting question.

The question came from an University of Florida Essay I found on line.

Based on an article I read yesterday about a water bottling company headed our way to suck out the water for a profit---I would ask a different question for the long term: HOW can we ask Floridian's to do their part when the St. John's River Water Management District is sending out two conflicting messages? They are guiding Floridians to conserve our precious water supply on one hand (how much are they spending on those public service announcement commercials), while they are ushering our water out by the truck load by approving new permits for the corporations to drive our water to other states.

The two messages collide into one raging river of mixed messages and conflicting duties.
Floridians might be left up a creek without a paddle if we don't make changes in this for-profit pattern now.

Utility companies are making plans to charge users more money for excessive use of water while the ink will be barely dry on a permit to siphon out our water in a package of corporate profit.

Welcome to Florida.
I hope our County Commissioners step up to the plate and pull the plug on this for-profit party.--Kay Borglum, M.S., VP

Lake County water too scarce for bottling plant
Commissioners say they do not support Niagara's bid to open a plant.

Robert Sargent/ Sentinel Staff Writer /November 7, 2007


Lake County commissioners on Tuesday strongly opposed a California company's plans to build a large bottled-water plant to sell off millions of gallons a year from this area's increasingly precious underground supplies.

Commissioners were scheduled to consider a $2.3 million financial-incentives package to help lure Niagara Bottling LLC to open the proposed plant inside Christopher C. Ford Commerce Park near Groveland. Another $2.5 million in incentives was proposed for Georgia-based Flowers Foods Inc., which also is looking at the commerce park.

Both companies had asked to postpone the incentive requests. Commissioners complied, but not before telling a crowd of concerned residents that they do not support Niagara's bottling facility.

"Conservation right now is what we have to be doing," Commissioner Linda Stewart said. "By even allowing a company to come in and bottle and sell our water is completely irresponsible."

Commissioner Elaine Renick said this area is being forced to limit water use. Local development is expected to outpace groundwater supplies in six years, and local governments are looking to spend millions of dollars to pipe in extra water from large regional rivers.

Renick said Lake County must voice its opposition to the St. Johns River Water Management District, which has encouraged water conservation for years while handing out huge water permits for local utilities to support more growth. Water-management officials may allow Niagara to take an average of 176 million gallons for each of the next 20 years.

"We have got to go to the St. Johns -- this would totally counter to all the messages they are sending out," Renick explained.

Niagara has asked the St. Johns for a consumptive-use permit that would allow average daily withdrawals of about 484,000 gallons a day. The proposed plant would operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, according to a permit request.

Niagara provides bottled water under different labels to national chains such as Wal-Mart, Costco, Kroger, Safeway, Kmart, American Airlines and Office Depot, according to the request. Company representatives reported that contracts currently are being negotiated for the proposed facility near Groveland to supply bottled water to several companies, including Target, Publix, Winn-Dixie, Sam's Club and Dollar General.

Niagara officials have said their proposed water withdrawals will not harm other nearby water users or the underground aquifer. Although the company aims to sell millions of gallons each year, officials also propose to save water with low-flow toilets and sinks, Bahia grass outside and constant monitoring of bottling equipment.

County staffers courted Niagara with help from the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission. County Commission Chairman Welton Cadwell said Tuesday that commissioners need to send a clear message about the kind of companies that are more appropriate for Lake County. A meeting between county and Economic Development Commission officials could be scheduled next week.

Ray Gilley, the economic commission's president and CEO, said he welcomes the discussion: "We're always looking at what we're doing and how we can do it better."

County commissioners could consider the incentives proposal for Flowers Foods in two weeks. The Niagara incentives also could be decided at that time, although commissioners might not be willing to provide any help to that company.

"It doesn't make sense right now," Stewart said.

Robert Sargent can be reached at

Copyright © 2007, Orlando Sentinel

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