Gainesville residents on Friday traveled to High Springs to participate in a local protest.
High Springs and Gainesville activists protested Seven Springs Water Company’s permit to pump water out of Ginnie Springs and Santa Fe River. The permit expired in June, but Seven Springs Water Company is looking to renew it. The renewed permit would allow Seven Springs Water Company to pump over a million gallons of water a day for Nestlé bottled water. Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, board member for the Our Santa Fe River nonprofit organization, broke down that high number.
“The extraction amount is four hundred gallons a minute, to equate to one million, one hundred and fifty-two [gallons a day],” she said.
The protestors argued that Ginnie Springs and Santa Fe River cannot handle having that much water removed each day. In a press release about the protest, organizers cited four major negative environmental impacts. Water will be depleted, local wildlife will be put at risk, bottled water is a pollution issue, and tap water will become more vulnerable.
Outside of the environmental impacts, Malwitz-Jipson worries about the impact the renewal will have on residents.
“You see the generational families here. It’s important for their livelihood,” she said. “A lot of the people who live and work around here don’t leave. To have our springs and rivers more degraded by a corporate water grab such as Nestlé’s is potentially really harmful to our community and to our livelihood.”
Nestle said in a statement earlier this fall that it plans to maintain the health and long-term sustainability of Florida’s waterways.
The protest in High Springs began at 6 p.m. with several guest speakers: Marihelen Wheeler of the Alachua County Commission; Isaac Augspurg, a Youth Climate litigant; Mike Roth, Our Santa Fe River President; Emma Turner, Coordinator for Young Leaders for Wild Florida; Anton Kernohan, Climate Action Gator Vice President; and Malwitz-Jipson.
After the speeches, protesters marched single file across town. Posters and props filled the streets, with protesters chanting sayings like “S.O.S. — Save Our Springs.” Turner said this protest mattered to her because of her connection to nature.
“In the end, that’s what we’re out here protecting. We have that relationship with our nature; it’s important to us. We don’t want to see it exploited. We don’t want to see it polluted by Nestle,” Turner said.
The Suwannee County Water Management District will vote on the renewal of the Seven Springs Water Company’s contract later this year.