Still, in a state where access to clean, affordable water, most notably in Flint and Detroit, has dominated the news, it offends many that a foreign company can profit from bottling so much for so little. Even in this deeply conservative corner of rural America, fear of environmental despoliation and a sense of being exploited is propelling many to denounce Nestlé's demand for more.
Other major industries use far more water for the same $200 permit fee — Pfizer, for instance, used 6.9 billion gallons in 2015 for its medicine factory near Kalamazoo, according to state data — but most of that water is returned to the same watershed after use, Nestlé critics note.
The scale of Nestlé's operation in this sparsely populated region about 180 miles northwest of Detroit is immense. The company packages an average of 4.8 million bottles of water a day — more than 3,000 a minute — with all lines running at a plant about 40 miles south of Evart, said David Sommer, the factory manager.
That plant draws water from nine wells, including two owned by the City of Evart for which it pays the local municipal water rate of $3.50 per thousand gallons. Two are on the factory site and the other five are scattered around two rural counties, including the White Pines well near Evart that is the subject of the increase request.
All that pumping produces the spring water Ice Mountain label sold across the Upper Midwest and the filtered water line Pure Life, a national line. Spring water, defined as coming from sources that flow naturally at the land's surface, sells for more because it is perceived to be more authentic and healthier, Nestlé officials say.
"Spring water is a very different thing, a precious source," said Nelson Switzer, chief sustainability officer for Nestlé Waters North America. "We bring that to the people, that convenience, that ability to reseal, to take it with them, to have it when they need it. That's a very unique idea, a distinction."
To win over the state environmental agency, Nestlé must convince officials that it is a good steward of the environment. Arlene Anderson-Vincent, Nestlé's natural resources manager for Michigan, insisted, "We never take out more than nature's bringing back in."
Evart's city manager, Zackary Szakacs, supports Nestlé, asserting that the company's purchase of water from city-owned wells keeps costs low for the 2,000 residents of a community with a $19,000 median income. The company also pays for an environmental protection fund, new public recreational facilities and, more recently, for scientists and expertise to purify a city well Nestlé found to be tainted by perchlorate, a thyroid toxin.
"There's so much water in Osceola County, it's unbelievable," said Mr. Szakacs, who says he has not observed changes in the waterways. "We're so fortunate. We have a partnership with Nestlé Ice Mountain. It's a good partnership. We're just trying to survive so the town will live another 100 years."
Opposition is strong, though. In April, the zoning board in Osceola Township, the unincorporated area outside Evart where the White Pines well sits, voted 5 to 0 to reject Nestlé's application to build a $500,000 facility that would increase its current ability to pump if the state allows it.
Nestlé is appealing that ruling, saying the booster station is the most efficient way to move the increased water. If the company is unable to build the station, it may widen an existing pipeline or truck the water to the factory, Ms. Anderson-Vincent said.
There is no conclusive scientific data that Nestlé has depleted or altered the ecosystem. Even local hydrologists troubled by Nestlé's operations acknowledge that the accusations of damage are supported largely by anecdotal observations like those of Ms. Borden or of anglers who say the creek's stock of trout has diminished.
"We've heard their arguments, but we haven't seen any of their science," Mr. Switzer said. "Believe me, over and over we've asked, invited them to come in and talk with us. Let's not forget we have 17 years of data, rigorous science with over 100 monitoring points that demonstrate rigorously that what we are doing does not have a significant impact."