Over the past two years, a big concern in southern Maine was that the giant transnational Nestl?orporation was going to bleed an underground aquifer dry in order to sell bottles of Poland Spring brand water all over the world.

Now that Poland Spring’s proposed deal with the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport & Wells Water District is dead, the more likely problem for York County homeowners and business people is higher water rates. The culprit? A lack of demand.

The down economy and last year’s wet summer meant there was less water used throughout the region. Instead of selling water to Poland Spring, use decreased by 11 percent. Even with cost reductions, there is not enough money coming in to pay the bills, according to the district’s administrators.

It is ultimately up to the Public Utilities Commission to determine if the numbers justify a rate increase, but if they do, people who will have to pay more for their water can reflect on last year’s debate.

In 2008, the town of Wells put a moratorium on large extractions of water, and work was done on developing an ordinance that would regulate companies like Poland Spring, limiting the amount they could pump each day and requiring monitoring to ensure that water quality would not be affected.

Even though it was the focus of the regulations, Poland Spring campaigned for the ordinance, but it was defeated at the polls last fall.


The company made a reasonable case. It did not plan to deplete the aquifer and had an interest in maintaining its quality. The company would also have been adding good-paying jobs in a tough economy.

But the political struggle often seemed to be less about the amount of water in the aquifer than an anti-corporate development crusade. It wasn’t so much about how much water would be pumped, but more about who was pumping it. The anti-Poland Spring side won and they can reflect on whether it was worth it.

But so will the landlord, laundromat or restaurant owner who might have just been managing to stay afloat financially during this recession before seeing a hike in their water rates. And those people may think that a deal with a water bottler would be worth a second look.


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