Nestlé has been ordered to stop taking spring water from the San Bernardino National Forest for its bottled water products. The decision, made by California’s Water Resources Control Board, comes after a probe into Nestlé’s use of spring water found multiple violations and excessive resource depletion. The company has spent years taking the spring water to package and sell it.
The order comes at a time when the state has been ramping up action to conserve water following worsening drought conditions. California is currently facing water scarcity due to persistent droughts over the past decade. Just earlier this week, Governor Gavin Newsom announced a regional drought emergency affecting two northern counties. In his announcement, Newsom requested state agencies to take necessary measures to stop the situation from getting worse.
The order by the Water Resources Control Board has been a long time coming. There have been several complaints about Nestlé’s use of natural spring water, some dating back several years. An online petition against Nestlé Waters North America from 2015 outlined the negative impacts of the company’s actions on the community, including shortages of water downstream.
Jule Rizzardo, assistant deputy director for the Division of Water Rights, has condemned Nestlé’s actions, saying that the spring water diversions have been ongoing against recommendations to stop the resource depletion.
“It is concerning that these diversions are continuing despite recommendations from the initial report, and while the state is heading into a second dry year,” Rizzardo said.
Nestlé has been given a 20-day period, within which it can respond to the directive with a request for a hearing. Failure to respond may result in a final order. If adopted, the order may limit the company’s surface stream diversions to pre-1914 water rights. Nestlé may also be required to submit an annual report to monitor its water consumption.
In the Strawberry Creek watershed alone, Nestlé has over 13 water sites where the water is redirected to a facility for bottling. The Strawberry Creek watershed is a vital tributary of the Santa Ana River, and such diversions affect the availability of water downstream.
Image via Tania C. Parra / USFS