A few days later, the state of Michigan announced it was ending bottled-water distribution in Flint, four days after it approved Nestlé’s permit to pump 500,000 gallons of freshwater per day from its well in the state. Nestlé will pay $200 annually for this permit. Nestlé is taking advantage of the fact there are no strict regulations in Michigan for water that is below ground; it is not really considered a public trust, and so the state has no explicit rules to protect it for the people like it does for surface waters.
For years, Flint residents have been lining up to get packs of Ice Mountain bottled water for cooking and bathing and drinking while a Swiss corporation has a giant straw sucking freshwater out of the ground in Michigan for next to nothing.
My water lines were replaced, but I am still waiting for reports from two water studies. My annual water bill is nine times as high as what Nestlé pays, and Nestlé bottles that water and sells it to people nationwide — who raise money to buy packs of it and donate it to Flint residents.
I know Nestlé did not cause this crisis, but its actions raise questions that cannot be ignored. What are the basic things humans have a right to in their own communities? How much control of essential natural resources are we willing to leave in the hands of private corporations?