Photo via Flickr
Every day, 500,000 gallons get sucked up from a limestone basin in northern Florida by the Nestle Water Co. Every hour of each of those days, the water fills 102,000 plastic bottles at a nearby bottling plant. Nestle, and the 22 other bottled water companies in Florida, make a profit anywhere between 10 and 100 times the cost of each bottle. So how much does Nestle pay for the water it drains from the state's natural resources? Nothing. Oh, excuse me—the company had to pay a one-time fee of $150 dollars for a local water permit. The water they use isn't even taxed a single cent—but the Governor's looking to change that, big time. Taxin' Bottled Water From the Source
In an attempt to correct this free reign, water supply depletin' madness, Republican Governor Charlie Crist is proposing a 6 cent per gallon state tax on all water usurped from aquifers by commercial water bottlers—a tax that could land $56 million in state coffers its first year in effect alone, according to the Miami Herald.
Florida wouldn't be the first state to do so: Michigan and Vermont already impose a tax on water bottlers, Chicago's got a tax, and Seattle has completely given bottled water the boot. And Florida itself gave taxing commercial water companies a go back in '05—but the measure died in the Senate.
This time, however, things have changed—Florida's economy has collapsed, hit especially hard by the real estate crash—and even many Republicans are welcoming the idea of a new source of tax revenue, though some favor a sales tax.
Some legislators have suggested imposing a similar 6 cent sales tax on every bottle of water consumed in the state. However, since half of the bottled water is exported out of state, an extraction tax would be a much more consistent, effective tax—and it would bring in more revenue to the state.
Big Bottled Water Hits Back, Hilariously
But wait! Not so fast, says Big Bottled Water. We shouldn't have to pay taxes on the resources we extract for commercial purposes, like natural gas and oil companies do! That's unfair!
And why, pray tell us, Nestle Water Co?
According to the Herald, the Southwest director of operations for Nestle said that "Bottled water 'isn't a luxury, it's a choice," he argues, "and during times of natural disaster, it's a necessity.'
Mmmm. Good point, Nestle.
According to Meriam Webster, the definition of 'luxury' is "something adding to pleasure or comfort but not absolutely necessary." Yes, I'd say the millions of bottles of water lining supermarkets, bodegas, and convenience stores across the nation are absolutely necessary—especially when 90% of the nation has access to tap water that's better and safer than the bottled stuff. Paying money for water in a plastic bottle when you can get it free at home is the very epitome of luxury: it's absolutely unnecessary. And playing the natural disaster card? Are you kidding me? How many, exactly of those 102,000 bottles filled every hour from that one single plant go to natural disaster relief? Somewhere between 0-1, by my best estimates. But closer to 0.
Embracing the Bottled Water Tax
It looks like bottled water is finally on the end of a losing battle here—all it took was an imploding economy to usher in some common sense from Florida politicians. It's a good step towards what will hopefully be the slow decline of the perennially absurd bottled water industry.
More on Bottled Water
Greenwash Watch: "Green" Bottled Water
How to Never Drink Bottled Water Again
Drugs Are In Our Water! Should I Switch to Bottled?