Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

A sign for the Nestle Water bottling facility is seen in Stanwood, Michigan, January 11, 2018. (Photo: Steven M. Herppich/AFP via Getty Images)

'Victory for the People': Michigan Court Rejects Nestlé's Claim That Privatizing Local Town's Water Provides 'Essential Service'

"Allowing a corporation to bottle our water just to sell it back to us is hardly an 'essential service.'"

Julia Conley

Nestlé's permit to extract hundreds of gallons of water per minute from a central Michigan town could be at risk following a decision by the state's second-highest court that the multinational company cannot build a pumping station in the town.

A three judge panel for the state appeals court ruled Tuesday that by building a pumping station which does not comply with Osceola Township, Michigan's zoning laws, Nestlé would not be providing an "essential public service," regardless of its claims that it would offer a "public water supply" to the town.

The decision regarding Osceola represents a victory for the entire state, tweeted state Rep. Laurie Pohutsky, who on Thursday joined two other lawmakers in introducing legislation to protect the state's groundwater from private corporations.

"Allowing a corporation to bottle our water just to sell it back to us is hardly an 'essential service,'" wrote Pohutsky, a Democrat.

The judges handed down the decision two years after Nestle applied to build the pumping station in a children's campground in Osceola in order to extract more water from a nearby wellhead. The company sued the town after officials said the pump would violate zoning laws, and a lower court sided with Nestlé in 2017, saying water is an "essential public service."

The appeals court on Tuesday argued that "other than in areas with no other source of water, bottled water is not essential."

Critics said the company's plan was part of its scheme to privatize water supplies across the country. In 2016, Nestlé won preliminary approval from the state's environmental department to triple the amount of groundwater it pumps in the state, a year after medical experts first urged residents of Flint to stop drinking tap water after finding elevated lead levels in children's blood.

The court's decision could be appealed to the state Supreme Court, but as The Guardian reported, the ruling "could also lead state environmental regulators to reconsider" the company's water-pumping permits. The permits were issued under the assumption that Nestle would be providing an essential service to Michiganders.

Food and Water Watch's Midwest branch declared the decision a victory.

When introducing water protection legislation on Thursday, state lawmakers implicitly referenced the decision and Nestle's attempt to profit off of the state's water.

"Not only is groundwater essential for the state of Michigan, but we need to protect it and we need to put it in the public trust," said Democratic state Rep. Yousef Rahbi.

Jennifer Schlicht of Clean Water Action's Michigan's office celebrated the appeals court's decision and asked voters to urge their representatives to support the legislation.

"The concept of our water as a public trust is something Michiganders inherently understand, even if they don't know the term itself," tweeted Schlicht.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Because Climate Science 'Does Not Grade on a Curve,' Experts Says IRA Not Enough

"There is an urgent need for much more aggressive and far-reaching measures to prevent climate chaos," said the head of one progressive consumer advocacy group.

Brett Wilkins ·


'Game-Changer and Reason for Hope': House Passes Inflation Reduction Act

"We've got more to do," Rep. Pramila Jayapal said on the House floor. "But today, let's celebrate this massive investment for the people."

Jake Johnson ·


'This Is Insane': Search Warrant Indicates FBI Investigating Trump for Espionage Act Violation

"If you're not fed up," said watchdog group Public Citizen, "you're not paying enough attention."

Jessica Corbett ·


Anti-War Veterans Group Asks Biden to 'Read Our Nuclear Posture Review Before Releasing Yours'

"Are you willing to risk a civilization-ending apocalypse by playing nuclear chicken with other nuclear-armed nations? Or will you lead us toward a planet that is free of nuclear weapons?"

Jessica Corbett ·


'Big Win' for Public Lands and Climate as US Judge Reinstates Coal Lease Ban

"It's past time that this misguided action by the Trump administration is overturned," said one environmental campaigner.

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo