New bills in the Michigan legislature would limit distribution of the state’s water resources to the Great Lakes watershed by removing an exemption that currently allows companies like Nestle to ship bottled water outside the basin.
Sponsored by state Reps. Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, Laurie Pohutsky, D-Livonia, and Rep. Rachel Hood, D-Grand Rapids, the three-bill package would also designate groundwater as part of the public trust and would give the Department of Natural Resources more authority in water resource management.
The Great Lakes Compact already bans most water diversions, but the rules currently allow for unlimited amounts of water to be removed from the watershed as long as it’s in a container smaller than 5.7 gallons.
A key piece of the bill package would prohibit that small-container diversion, which supporters said during a press conference would stop the “theft” of local water resources.
The legislation comes days after a three-judge panel reversed a lower court decision that had ordered Osceola Township to approve Nestle Waters North America’s attempt to build infrastructure needed to market groundwater drawn from a wellhead near Evart.
Hood, who sponsored the bill to end small-container water diversion, said the state of Michigan “should not be allowing corporations to profit off of permanently removing massive quantities of water that belongs to all of us.”
Environmental groups praised the legislation as a means to give citizens more say in what happens to the state’s water resources.
As freshwater becomes more in demand around the globe, ensuring that water isn’t viewed as a product is crucial to protecting the state’s water resources, said Jim Olson, founder and president of the environmental group For Love of Water.
A lot of states are not realizing what’s coming and what is happening,” he said. “I don’t care who you are or what political side of the aisle you’re on, what business you’re in. Unless you’re trying to export water for a lot of money, you want public trust protection for all of us.”
The legislation would need to pass the Republican-led House and Senate and be signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to become law.
M Live. com / ABC Flash Point News 2019.