Nestlé evaluating Wacissa River as a source for bottled water

Nestlé Waters North America, the largest bottled water company in the country, is evaluating water quantity and quality in the Wacissa River in Jefferson County to determine if it would be suitable for commercial bottling purposes. Nestlé currently operates a large commercial bottling facility in Madison County, Florida at Blue Springs. The company also has alternative water sources in Liberty and Washington Counties that supplement the Blue Springs plant. 

The Wacissa River is located in the larger Aucilla River basin, an area in which the Tall Timbers Land Conservancy has significant strategic interests in the form of nearly 30,000 acres of conservation easements. The Wacissa River is a clear, spring fed river that has been designated by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as an “Outstanding Florida Waterbody.” The Wacissa is fed by as many as 20 springs along its 14-mile run to the Aucilla River. It features abundant wildlife, scenic views, and is popular with recreational users. 

Log Springs, feeding the Wacissa River. Photo by Todd Andrews.

Nestlé recently drilled a series of monitoring wells to evaluate water quality and quantity in the Wacissa River springshed. Although there are no formal plans at this point, company representatives have discussed with local residents the possibility of withdrawing approximately 500,000 gallons of water per day and transporting it in 60 – 80 tanker trucks to the Madison County plant for bottling. Company officials note however, that it is too early in the process to accurately quantify water withdrawals. The company has no plans to construct a water bottling plant in Jefferson County. 

It could take several months before water quality and quantity testing is complete, and as much as a year before a decision is made regarding applying for a consumptive use permit from the Suwannee River Water Management District (WMD). Officials at the WMD have stated that the permitting process could take more than one year once a completed permit application is submitted.

Tall Timbers Land Conservancy Planning Coordinator Neil Fleckenstein will be monitoring this issue closely. For additional information, please contact Neil at 850-893-4153, ext. 335.