If you’ve been paying any attention to California’s devastating drought, chances are you’ve shared—or at the very least encountered—some of the growing rage towards Nestlé‘s ongoing, largely unchecked water bottling operation in the parched state. While Starbucks recently announced they would transfer their Ethos water bottling facility from California to Pennsylvania, Nestlé CEO Tim Brown said: “Absolutely not. In fact, if I could increase [water bottling operations], I would.” As Governor Jerry Brown enacts the state’s first water restrictions, it’s time to demand that Nestlé cease its bottled water operation – sign this petition to make your voice heard!
Among the scandals that have hit Nestlé’s California water bottling operations—which include the Arrowhead and Pure Life brands—are the revelations that they are pulling groundwater from lands leased from the Morongo Band of Mission Indians in Cabazon, a desert area, and that the company has also been sourcing its water from the San Bernardino National Forest—with a permit that expired way back in 1988.
The company has fought hard to keep its water bottling operations flowing. According to Salon, California actually tried to revoke Morongo’s license to use water from Millard Canyon starting in 2003. The tribe successfully fought that action, and given the long history of oppression of Native Americans, and the fact that Nestlé’s operations are a source of revenue for the tribe, it’s an understandably sensitive topic. But in the current climate, the debates surrounding the Morongo facility have started up once again.
As far as Nestlé’s operations in the San Bernadino National Forest are concerned, it’s mostly business as usual. In spite of working without a permit for 27 years, Nestlé has been bumped to the front of the queue for permit renewal (which will take around 18 months), and they can keep working in the meantime so long as they pay a paltry $524 annual fee.
Overall, Nestle has five water bottling plants (and four food plants) in the state, and it turns out no one really knows just how much water they’re using. While remaining within the law, they have not submitted reports as to how much water each of their facilities pulls, and California itself does not track the company’s water usage. Independent analysis suggests that the Morongo plant consumes between 200 and 250 million gallons a year, and that all of Nestlé’s facilities combined use somewhere in the region of 1 billion gallons of water each year.
In context, that is a exceptionally small fraction of the 500 billion gallons of water that will be saved under Gov. Brown’s new water restrictions. But there’s something undeniably absurd—and ethically questionable—about mandating water-saving measures while allowing a multi-billion dollar corporation to continue selling bottled water back to the very people who are required to cut their water usage.
And really, it comes down to the consumers—bottled water is a growing industry, and a completely and utterly inane one. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council “in California average tap water costs about $1.60 per thousand gallons (about one tenth of a cent per gallon), while it has been reported that average bottled water costs about $0.90 per gallon—a 560-fold difference.”
So as petitions ask Nestlé and the state to take action against the water bottling industry, it lies very much in the hands of the public to make responsible decisions in defense of our own environment.