Minutes from that meeting also reveal that as of March, a number of issues such as light pollution, storm water management, site ingress and egress, site coverage, determination of water recharge areas, buffer zones and wetlands delineation had yet to be determined. The area’s economy relies on the river and its springs, which are major tourist attractions. While the precise extent of the facility’s impact on the area’s tourism industry is unknown, taking significant quantities of water from the springs would deplete their levels and natural beauty, making them less attractive to visitors. Presently, the Santa Fe River is a tributary to the famous Suwannee River and both are listed as impaired rivers by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). It is necessary to maintain the historic flow from the springs to support the delicate balance of the water ecosystem. “We are very pleased that the Gilchrist County Commission has decided to deny this permit,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of the consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch, one of the groups that opposed the permit. “If approved, this permit could have ignited a domino effect where future extractions are sanctioned with little regard for the consequences they may have on the area’s ecosystem and communities. Once a permit has been obtained, a bottler can request at any time for more water to be extracted. The bottled water industry is notorious for its lack of regulation. Few quotas exist to limit the amount of water a company can extract as they are self regulated in the state of Florida.” “Tuesday’s hearing and vote is emblematic of the power that people everywhere have to speak up in protection of vital natural resources,” said Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, board member of Our Santa Fe River, Inc., a local citizen group opposed to the extraction of water for the bottled water business. “Public interest prevailed because citizens showed up and lent their voices to this extremely important public dialog.”A This battle in Florida is just one part of a national endeavor to fight corporate efforts to bottle water from local supplies. Earlier in the year, activists in Wells, Maine halted a plan by Nestle to open a well to extract more water for its Poland Springs brand. Similarly, in McCloud, California activists mobilized to cancel a contract with Nestle to pump water from nearby Mount Shasta Springs. “What’s happening on the Santa Fe River is not an isolated incident. Communities around the country are mobilizing to stop the confiscation of their water by corporate interests. They want control of their water for their own purposes, not to see it commoditized and sold back to them at over 250 times its actual value,” said Hauter. Facts About Bottled Water: Plastic bottle production in the United States annually requires about 17.6 million barrels of oil, enough to fuel more than one million cars. A About 86 percent of empty plastic water bottles in the United States land in the garbage instead of being recycled. That amounts to about two million tons of PET plastic bottles piling up in U.S. landfills each year. A Bottled water typically costs more than $1 for eight to 12 ounces, amounting to more than $10 per gallon. Most Americans pay $0.002 per gallon for tap water. A According to a Natural Resources Defense Council study of 103 bottled water brands, about one-quarter of the brands tested contained bacterial or chemical contamination in some samples at levels that violated “enforceable state standards or warning levels.” A Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer rights organization based in Washington, D.C.
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Water extraction tax fails test
Each well uses about 2 million gallons of water, and were sinking nearly 200 wells a month. That volume suggests the extraction tax would raise serious money for the state. One rough estimate was for $3.74 million over two years. Oil companies would be paying this tax. After all, they have deep pockets. And thats despite oil and gas production taxes that have been flooding state coffers with revenue. Those taxes are well justified, and its legitimate to expect the companies to pay them as a part of the price of doing business. Whats one more tax? The potential exists for conflicts over water among oil companies and farmers and ranchers in western North Dakota. That part of the state can suffer long periods of drought and the flow of water from aquifers can fall off. But theres no clear relationship between those issues and the water extraction tax. Drilling companies can also use water from Lake Sakakawea, buying it from individuals or municipalities that have permits. In recent years, several water depots have been established. The excise tax may push companies toward these sources of water. Water is an essential resource in semi-arid North Dakota. An extraction tax on water from aquifers for industrial use needs to be reviewed within the context of the state overall water polices. It also must be seen within the context of the states energy and economic development policies. Further, it must be weighed in view of a desire to reduce taxes in general. We need not tax water just because we can. Copyright 2014 Bismarck Tribune.
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