Enough Water?

Cheers to Bill Nemitz for his very insightful piece “Enough Water: Let’s Figure it Out” in the Portland Press Herald. He showed that the amount of water that Poland Spring would have purchased for $900,000 from the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Wells Water Districts represents 0.14 percent of the water that falls in the region each year. He rightly criticizes the activist group that prevented that sale for their claims that operation would threaten such resources in the future.

Nemitz’s point applies to a much larger debate. Activist groups are around the nation offer silly arguments about water resources being “finite” and in danger of depletion. But properly constructed bottling operations do not deplete community water supplies. Aquifers, springs and other natural sources replenish via precipitation, a process called “recharging.” Many have been operating sustainably for hundreds of years. A study produced by Keith N. Eshleman, Ph.D. at the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science reports that “withdrawals for bottled water production represent only 0.019% of the total fresh ground water withdrawals in the U.S.,” which is far less than what Mother Nature recharges. The fact that communities and consumers can “profit” by enjoying these renewable resources is a good thing!

Water shortages can be a problem in certain areas. But problems usually result from government ownership and mismanagement, including from subsidies mostly to large, politically organized users—particularly agriculture. We need market-based systems to these manage resources. There is no reason to stop using them altogether, particularly where they are plentiful.