All Bottled Up: Michigan,Water and What Now?

I ride around with the official slogan “Pure Michigan” on my license plate. Michigan used to be called “Water Wonderland” among other long retired marketing hooks.

As a peninsular state we should know a thing or two water, but managing this most precious of all natural resources,  seems to be more than our state officials can handle.

Within the last two weeks, a set of water stories swirl in and out of news cycles almost too ironic to address in one broadcast.

First, we hear Flint’s mayor again is forced to plead with the governor’s office to  not shut off the free supply of bottled water to her city’s residents until at least a June water test can be taken to verify that contamination levels are low enough to declare it “safe” to drink…again.

State officials want to end the bottled water program and are slowly discouraging use by limiting official pick-up points across the city.

Based on earlier tests, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has declared the city water supply safe, when using a faucet-type filter.

The mayor, however, is not convinced, nor are Flint’s residents, who have no trust in the DEQ nor Gov. Rick Snyder, due to their earlier disregard for public safety when lead contamination was first reported in the drinking water.

Now, the story shifts to the western part of the state, namely, the Muskegon Water Shed which is home to wildlife, wetlands and also a vast amount of clean (can we say, pure) Michigan water.

Well, the Nestle company sure thinks so. In fact they have been pumping Michigan pure from the water shed for years, for the cost of the permits, then bottling and selling it back to you and I at huge profits.

The waters get a bit muddied at this point in the story.

Nestle is now petitioning the state for permission to double its water extraction quantities, and, being confident of approval, the company has construction underway to manage the increase in volume.

Yes, the irony between Flint’s cries for water and Nestle’s hope to steal more pure Michigan is not lost on the governor’s office, launching what must be a huge news filtering process, except for the persistence of the Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club and other conservation groups, calling for a longer review process and more public hearings with Nestle and state officials.

There’s the irony, and, as I see it, the solution.

I propose that Michigan’s people demand that Nestle supply all the FREE bottled water Flint needs for as long as it takes to get excellent water test results.

In exchange, Nestle is allowed to keep extracting our water but only at current limits, with no permission to expand extractions – ever. In other words, Nestle becomes Flint’s water boy or leaves the state and our pure, Michigan water alone.

If the governor doesn’t have the courage to approach Nestle with this or a similar – time you pay up – solution, he cannot look Flint’s residents in the face and say he cares.

 

Water is Michigan’s best resource. We as a state are also responsible to be stewards of this treasure, which will become all the more precious as climate change continues to drain water supplies across the nation. We shall be held accountable.

Drinking a glass of pure Michigan,

The Unlikely Student

 

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