The Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm ordered state officials on May, 25th not to allow new or expanded bottled water operations in Michigan until the Legislature enacts a water withdrawal law.
"As stewards of the Great Lakes, we must ensure these facilities are not causing long-term harm to our most precious natural resource," she said in a statement.
By issuing the executive directive to place a moratorium on any new bottling facility that does not agree to limit its product distribution to within the Great Lakes Basin, Ms. Granholm opened a new offensive in the water policy debate. The governor said the ban would stand until the Legislature passes a more comprehensive water use policy. That was a primary focus of the suit that Michigan Citizens For Water Conservation brougt against Nestle, which now operates a water bottling plant in Mecosta County approved by a previous administration in 2001.
Granholm issued the order as the state Department of Environmental Quality granted a permit to Nestle Waters North America Inc. to buy water from the city of Evart's municipal system for bottling.
Nestle Waters North America filed a complaint in Ingham County circuit court to challenge the State's recent restrictions on permits allowing the company to buy water for its "Ice Mountain Spring Water" plant in Mecosta County.
The company claims recent restrictions on the distribution of water from the Great Lakes basin would limit their ability to compete with other bottled water companies. A federal lawsuit was also filed in Grand Rapids.
The Evart City Council in March approved a 10-year water purchasing agreement deal with the company, which owns the Ice Mountain spring water bottling plant near Stanwood in neighboring Mecosta County.
It calls for Greenwich, Conn.-based Nestle Waters to pump spring water from Evart's municipal water system to a nearby transfer station, where it would be pumped into tanker trucks for transport to the factory about 25 miles to the south.
The DEQ permit requires the company to certify every three months that spring water from the Evart plant is distributed only within the Great Lakes basin.
"The permit issued to Nestle allows the company to use our state's resources, but ensures that they will be used responsibly," said Steve Chester, the DEQ director. "The Legislature must now take action to provide us with the needed path forward on this important public policy issue."
Still, environmentalists applauded the governor's moves as her most meaningful public action yet to safeguard Michigan's water quantity.
"The administration is back in the business of water resource protection," said Noah Hall, water resource program manager for the National Wildlife Federation. "This latest action is decisive and strategic. They're doing what needs to be done."
Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation
Michigan Land Use Institute
Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm