Nestle’s “Ice Mountain” Bottled Water is Leaving Nothing for Michigan’s Trout

Creeks formerly packed with trout are now empty after 15 years of Nestlé pumping the groundwater beneath them

Less than 20 years ago Michigan’s Chippewa and Twin Creeks were teeming with trout. Last summer there were none.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, that’s because Nestlé has sucked nearly 2 billion gallons of water out from under them over the last 15 years.

Despite it’s name, there are no mountains anywhere near the source of Nestlé’s “Ice Mountain” spring water. The bottled water is pumped from wells under creeks and wetlands between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

Since the early 2000’s, Nestlé has siphoned 250 gallons a minute from beneath the creeks, and soon that number will increase 400 gallons a minute.

That’s 200 million gallons of free water each year, given as a gift from the State of Michigan to a private, for-profit company, for a mere $200 permit.

The cost to local ecosystems is priceless.

Among other disappearing aquatic life, trout can no longer be found locals in creeks once known for their trout, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Local citizen-scientists have been measuring water levels at the creeks ever since Nestlé arrived on the scene, since neither Nestlé nor the state monitor them.

They are low and getting lower, says 83-year-old Jim Maturen, a retired law officer, who takes measurements along Chippewa Creek, also North Branch Chippewa River, every month.

Maturen says he saw no trout in the river last summer. Records from the Department of Environmental Quality confirm there were trout there 18 years ago.

Retired school teacher Maryann Borden has photos documenting changes in the Twin Creek river.

“It’s not the same creek,” she told Agence France-Presse. “It’s narrower and warmer,” compared to the “biting cold” water of her youth.

“The trout can’t survive in it because the water is warmer,” she said.

“If you look at the culverts, they provide a historic landmark,” said Tim Ladd, manager of Osceola Township.

“You don’t have to be a geologist or a hydrologist to see those water levels,” he added. “The water lake tables are lower today than what they were two years ago.”

The State of Michigan received more than 80,000 comments opposing Nestlé’s request to increase its allowance to 400 gallons a minute, but approved it anyway.

Citizens from the Township of Osceola are prepared to sue.

It’s not their first time dealing with Nestlé.

Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation took the company to court in 2001 when residents of neighboring Mecosta County grew concerned over how groundwater pumping had changed Dead Stream and wetlands in the same watershed as Osecola Township.

Residents won the case, and Nestlé had to stop pumping there temporarily. After Nestlé appealed, a judge ruled in 2009 that the company could take an average 218 gallons per minute instead of the 400 it was originally allowed.

State Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor was  disappointed by the DEQ’s approval of the permit.

“Michiganders know that no private company should be able to generate profits by undermining our state’s precious natural resources,” she told the Detroit Free Press.