News Feature | November 15, 2023

How Poland Springs Attempted To Thwart Water Protection Rules

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga

Water bottles-GettyImages-1369174018

A recent effort to protect source water in Maine was thwarted by a surprising opponent: lobbyists representing one of the world’s largest bottled water companies.

“When Maine lawmakers tried to rein in large-scale access to the state’s freshwater this year, the effort initially gained momentum,” The New York Times reported. “Then a Wall Street-backed giant called Blue Triton stepped in… BlueTriton owns many of the nation’s biggest brands, including Poland Spring, which is named after a natural spring in Maine that ran dry decades ago.”

Even after the legislation to curb access to Maine’s groundwater had gotten a majority committee vote and was headed for consideration by the legislature, an amendment proposed by a lobbyist for BlueTriton to strike the bill led to a pull back.

But many question if this decision was really in the best interest of Maine’s consumers, as regions across the nation face increasing drought conditions, even this Northeastern state.

“In rural areas of Maine, local activists have long been concerned about resource extraction by bottled water giant Poland Spring, expressing worries about the environmental impacts and arguing that communities should have more control over their own groundwater supply given the escalating climate crisis,” according to Stateline. “Although Maine is seen as a water rich area, it was only last year that large swaths of the state were experiencing drought or abnormally dry conditions.”

Following the escalating importance of water resources, BlueTriton now finds itself locked in water access battles across the country. Its ongoing battles are emblematic of a changing perception around drinking water as it dries up: that it is too valuable to be monopolized by bottled water companies.

“BlueTriton finds itself pitted against local water boards, environmentalists and other groups across the country,” per the Times. “In Colorado, environmental groups have been battling a 10-year contract that BlueTriton renewed with a semi-arid county to pump water from the Upper Arkansas River Basin… In California, BlueTriton has publicly criticized and vowed to fight a cease-and-desist order issued by the state’s water board to stop diverting millions of gallons of water from a spring in San Bernardino County.”

As water continues to dry up, it seems likely that fights with similar conglomerates and other thirsty private enterprises will rage from coast to coast.

To read more about how climate change is creating water access challenges around the country visit Water Online’s Source Water Solutions Center.