Bottled water companies have been profiting for years off of Florida’s natural aquifer. Twenty-two bottlers, including Coca-Cola and Nestle, rake in profits of up to a 100 times the cost of each bottle. The price of the water to the companies is a onetime fee of $150 for a water permit, according to the St. Petersburg Times.
To the dismay of the bottlers, Gov. Charlie Crist has proposed a 6 cent per gallon tax on water used for commercial bottled water.
In an interview with the Times, Rob Fisher, operations director for Nestle’s Southeast region, said, “(Bottled water) isn’t a luxury, it’s a choice — and during times of natural disaster, it’s a necessity.”
Taxes are levied on oil and natural gas, both of which may be considered choices for consumers and necessities during natural disasters. There isn’t anything special about bottled water over tap water — other than the fact that it provides consumers with environmentally unfriendly containers for portability.
The notion that bottled water companies are providing citizens with a social service rather than an overpriced and over-hyped product is laughable.
Tap water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and unlike the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — which regulates bottled water — the EPA puts strict standards on the amount and type of contaminants it allows in its water supply.
According to the FDA’s Web site: “Each time the EPA establishes a standard for a chemical or microbial contaminant, the FDA either adopts it for bottled water or makes a finding that the standard is not necessary for bottled water in order to protect the public health.”
While Florida counties and cities undergo watering restrictions in an effort to conserve water, bottling companies are pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons per day from the aquifer at no cost.
A tax on bottled water companies is long overdue. The governor’s office projects an estimated $56 million in revenue generated in the first year alone, funds that could be used to provide an even higher quality of tap water — or bail out the desalination plant, which has a $15 million deficit, according to the Times.