There could be gold in Stanford's spring

October 10, 2004|EMILY BURTON

STANFORD - It's not quite Jed Clampett's bubbling crude, but it could mean just as much to the Stanford economy.

If Buffalo Springs' mineral water is as pure as legend has it, then the city stands to cash in on the growing bottled water market, water entrepreneur Ron Lowe told council members Thursday.

"The water business is a big business right now, and it's not going to get smaller. It's getting larger," Lowe said. "I think I read somewhere that in four years, everybody's going to have a cell phone in one hand and a bottle of water in the other, and it's getting close to that now."

Stanford holds the deed to the springs, historically the city's emergency water source, but has given Lowe permission to enter the lands and send water samples to be tested at his own expense.


"Really good water... a tremendous spring," said Mayor Eddie Cater of the springs, located at the end of Water Street.

Lowe said the market was prime for the legendary healing water of Buffalo Springs, which "tastes a lot better than what I've ever had."

City council members were given sample bottles of water from Crab Orchard Springs, which Lowe owns the water rights to. If tapped, Buffalo Springs could produce three times as much water as Crab Orchard Springs and with equal quality, he told them between strategic sips.

The environmental impact on the springs is expected to be minimal. A 7,000 gallon holding tank would be buried near the spring, said Lowe, and two or three times a week he would siphon off 5,800 gallons to be bottled. It was suggested he be charged $.01 per gallon or $58 per load.

The uncollected spring water would continue to stream into the nearby creek.

The collected water would be run through nine microfilters for purification. The finished product would be closely monitored by the FDA, said Lowe, who was expecting them to inspect next week.

Spring still would be available to city

In the case of a water emergency, the spring would still be available for the city's use.

"The city would come first, 'cause I live here too. That wouldn't be a problem at all," Lowe said.

The council agreed to let Lowe to test the water, but cautioned that it did not make the city obligated to sell or lease him the water rights in the future.

Test results are expected to be returned in approximately three months, Lowe said. If favorable, they could herald in the potential for crucial new city revenue. Lowe quoted a 14 percent rise nationally in bottled water sales in the last 12 months. One well-known water company bottles about 26,000 gallons a day and brings in about $1 million a month in profit, he said.

The springs could encourage other industrial growth as well. After two years of hauling Crab Orchard water to Orlando, Ky., to be bottled, Lowe said he hoped his profit margins will increase to the point where a Buffalo Springs bottling company could be built.

"I think there's some possibilities, I really do," Carter said. "It's good water, and I just thought it could be something to help the city, too. And if it works for me, it works for you."

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