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Wells, Maine Votes Down Corporate Water (press release)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  November 6, 2008

Amy Dowley: (202) 683-2483, adowley@fwwatch.org
Erica Schuetz: (202) 683-4903, eschuetz@fwwatch.org
Jamilla El-Shafei of Save Our Water:  (603) 969-8426.

Wells, Maine Votes Down Corporate Water

As water companies are on the prowl for new water sources, the latest development is a victory for local control. On November 4, residents of Wells, Maine cast their ballots in favor of a 180-day moratorium on all water extraction activities.

The vote follows a summer decision against water extraction on the part of Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Wells Water District trustees. On July 17th, the trustees voted unanimously to “indefinitely table” Nestlé’s proposal to drain 500,000 gallons a day from the water district over the next 30 years and sell it nationally as Poland Spring brand bottled water.

This summer, Food & Water Watch and Defending Water for Life in Maine joined residents and Maine activists for a rally at the KKW Water District to voice opposition to the proposal. Concerned about a lack of public input in earlier talks over district water, residents organized to form Save Our Water (SOH20) to work to prevent large-scale water extraction for resale from the local watershed.

“We are ecstatic about the Wells victory,” said SOH2O member Jamilla El-Shafei. “There is a statewide movement bubbling up to protect our groundwater resources. Save Our Water is working with activists throughout Maine on the building of a coalition that will bring the issue to the forefront in every community.  I have no doubt that united we will be a formidable force to reckon with, and we are now united in saying no to Nestlé!”

The moratorium will allow time for residents to develop the terms of a municipal ordinance that will protect their water and surrounding environment from large-scale corporate water mining projects.  According to Wells resident Carol Simpson, “We worked hard for a moratorium and it paid off. We have a victory! Now the real work begins where we can craft an ordinance that will effectively protect the aquifer.”

“The people of Wells have shown, as have people in a growing number of places, that they won’t let the big water companies take their water and sell it for profits. Water is a resource for communities, not a buck waiting to be made by corporations,” stated Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter.

Wells’ victory follows the successful vote for a moratorium in Shapleigh, where earlier this fall townsfolk voted to halt Nestlé Water NA from expanding water mining operations on town public land.

Residents in the town of Fryeburg, Maine have had a harder time in the battle to ward off Nestlé.  For the past several years the community has been embroiled in a legal battle that has racked up a daunting $60,000 in legal fees for a group of local citizens. At present, Nestlé Waters NA has filed appeal documents at the Maine Supreme Court for the second time.

Groundwater resources are not protected by any state or regional law. Only by enacting comprehensive ordinances defending water at the local level can a community effectively keep water companies from taking control of aquifers.

For more information, contact Amy Dowley of Food & Water Watch at (202) 683-2483 or Jamilla El-Shafei of Save Our Water at (603) 969-8426.

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