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  • Writer's pictureYouth Energy Squad

What's the cost of a water bottle?


Today we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. This activity focuses on issues surrounding water (water bottling and water pumping), specifically if water companies should pay the same as residents since they are collecting the same water.

While Flint residents suffered from dangerous, contaminated drinking water, Nestle has continued to profit from pumping Michigan's freshwater. The Nestle water processing plant is only two hours from Flint, and their initial response was to give free bottled water to Flint residents. They decided to stop giving this aid in 2018, while the water crisis continued. According to the United Nations, access to water is a human right, citing that “lack of access to safe, sufficient and affordable water, sanitation and hygiene facilities has a devastating effect on the health, dignity, and prosperity of billions of people, and has significant consequences for the realization of other human rights.” With companies bottling the same water as municipal sources should they be allowed to pay less than residents?


Goals: Age Group: 6-12

  • Examine the financial and environmental costs of water bottling operations

  • Think critically about the difference between the cost of water for residents and water bottling companies

  • Learn more about the Flint water crisis

  • Develop critical thinking skills regarding community assets and methods of improving health.

Supplies: Time: 45 minutes

  • Optional: Access to the internet



This activity will consist of watching three 13-minute videos and answering reflection questions. Optionally, you can respond to this blog or the corresponding social media post (if you’re of age or with the assistance of an adult). You should answer these questions before watching the video and after reflecting on the questions that follow:


  1. Do you think water should be free? Why or why not?

  2. Is clean accessible water a human right?

  3. Do you think paying for water should be income-based or use based?

  4. What do you know about the Flint water crisis?

  5. How far is Evart, Michigan from your current location?

  6. How far is Flint from your location?

  • Please start by watching this video:

  • Next, watch this video:

  • Finally, watch this video from the Chairman of Nestle;


Reflection Questions:

  1. What do you feel about the videos?

  2. How much does Nestle pay for its water permit a year? Where do they get their water?

  3. What does the city get from Nestle in return?

  4. Based on the video, do you feel as though water customers are represented in the process of setting prices? Why or why not?

  5. According to the video Nestle has been able to provide its own environmental data for decisions around how much water they can pump. Where should data for decision making around Nestle come from?

  6. Do you think water should be free? Why or why not?

  7. Is clean accessible water a human right?

  8. What are some of the issues that could happen if water was free?

  9. Which people are most impacted by their water usage?

  10. As a result of Nestle water usage, Evart has lost so much of its lake water. Do you think this will help stop their water pumping in the area?

Flint video;

  1. Was the Flint water crisis preventable?

  2. Do you think the government’s response to the Flint water crisis was appropriate? Why or why not?

  3. Do you think that Flint residents should receive free water? Do you think that companies around the area should give free bottled water?

  4. How do you feel about the resident’s reactions?

  5. What do you think could have been done differently to assure the residents?

  6. Do you believe criminal charges should be handed out to Flint lawmakers during the crisis?

  7. Do you believe it was misleading to have politicians drinking ‘Flint’ water on T.V?

  8. Optional: If you would like to learn more about water click this link:


Activist Spotlight:

Justin Onwenu is an environmental justice organizer at the Sierra Club, a coalition working to protect communities, wild places and the planet itself. Justin completed a degree in international health policy at the University of Rice in Texas, where he was also student body president. Justin is also a former community outreach coordinator at the Children’s Environmental Health initiative. Justin has fought to prevent mass water shutoffs in the city of Detroit and leads education on how Detroiters can save money on their bills. During this time of COVID-19, Justin has participated in dropping off water to residents who still had their water shutoff and provided assistance when residents needed it.

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