Water Scarcity in Michigan

“Nestle in Michigan” is a video clip on YouTube about the Nestle corporations bottled water plants with a primary focus being on the plant located in Stanwood, Michigan (Menzies, 2010). Nestle has a 99 year lease on property that only cost them $63,000, “they received $10 million in tax abatements”, and they are pumping water at a rate of 218 gallons per minute (down from the original 450 gallons per minute) (Menzies, 2010). In other words, Nestle is pumping dangerously large amounts of water that is free to them as property owners, selling it for a profit, and not being subjected to the same tax as other land owners.

House Bill 6443 was introduced in 2010 to keep well water withdrawal from being taxed, but “instead, an owner would have to get permission from the state to use well water” (House Bill 6443, 2010). The intention of this bill was to encourage water conservation without taxing the private use of water. Within the bill it says to also refer to bill 5319 which “gives a property owner a right to the reasonable use of ground water, to the extent this does not diminish the ability of neighbors to obtain water” (House Bill 6443, 2010).

This would only solve the problem if Nestle and the people of Stanwood could agree on how much water is a reasonable amount. As it stands, Nestle said they would “be reasonable” and cause “no harm”, yet they continued to pump water at the same rate during a drought, have caused sinkholes, and have caused more than one neighbor to have a decreased water supply (Menzies, 2010). Private land owners in Michigan already have to get permits/permission before drilling and using a well, they are also already not taxed for using their well. Based on this information it is unlikely that an agreement could be reached, the bill itself seems somewhat unnecessary, therefore I believe it was right to not pass this particular bill.

If this bill had passed it could potentially cause unnecessary time and money tied up in neighborly feuds. Farmer Joe has an irrigation system that runs on a timer based on his needs. New neighbor Nellie moves in, and although farmer Joe hasn’t changed anything in several years, Nellie believes Joe is depleting her water supply. It is now an issue that will have them both wasting time and money on investigations, lawyers, and other court fees while in and out of court. Once one case is won a precedent is set that opens the door for all kinds of neighbor vs. neighbor and who is entitled to the water.

Environmental Attorney Jim Olson said, “Water is a transient gift on earth for life” (Menzies, 2010). To me this means water was provided to us by God as a means of survival and ongoing life. Water belongs to no one person yet all of us at the same time. A better solution than House Bill 6443 would be a bill that instead imposes a high tax on the withdrawal of water for commercial use. Honestly I can’t believe there is no such law. Government should play a larger role in the preservation of our natural resources; however it is ultimately up to us as individuals to be conscious consumers. Without consumers there are no markets.

I found this video to be quite disturbing. I have always felt bottled water was a waste but never realized to what extent. This video is another affirmation of what a waste of money and gross, unnecessary, waste of natural resource bottled water is. Before anyone ever sold bottled water, the market for it did not exist; there was no demand for bottled water. People carried it with them, found an alternate source, or went without. I too have purchased bottled water out of convenience. We all need to realize the extent of the environmental damage, open our eyes to just how scarce the water supply is, and return to a less convenient way of living before we have no supply at all.


House Bill 6443. (2010). Michiganvotes.org. Retrieved February 22, 2014, from http://www.michiganvotes.org/2010-HB-6443 Menzies, Jesse. (2010). Nestle in Michigan. YouTube.com. Retrieved February 22, 2014, from http://youtu.be/M3d0rGGS3OA