By Miriam Raftery
March 29, 2015 (Sacramento)—The Courage Campaign has mounted a campaign asking the state to stop Nestlé from bottling scarce California water during the drought and selling it out of state for profit. The activist group has an online petition asking the state to intervene. Nestle’s operations are impacting public, private and tribal water supplies.
According to the Courage Campaign, “Nestlé has repeatedly ignored requests from local residents to halt its operations, even as water levels in local wells continue to shrink and residents experience poor water service and sputtering faucets. Activists have even gone so far as to block all truck entrances of Nestlé’s South Sacramento plant carrying torches and pitchforks.”
Courage Campaign wants state officials to step in to preserve diminishing water supplies amid the fourth year of one of the worst droughts in history. NASA satellite imagery has led NASA to conclude that California could run out of water in a year – but in some areas, that’s already occurring.
California also produces much of the nation’s food supply, but many farms in the Central Valley are fallow since the federal government allocated zero water to them this year. Yet while residents are facing water mandatory use restrictions statewide,
Nestle is bottling water from at least a dozen natural springs in the state for its Arrowhead and Pure Life brands, the Courage Campaign notes.
One of the company’s bottling plants is on the Morongo Native American reservation. The company leases land from the tribe in one of our state’s most drought-stricken areas that is exempt from oversight by local water agencies.
Calvin Louie, the Cabazon Water District’s manager, says he can see both sides in the issue involving Morongo. "Arrowhead provides a lot of jobs, and that helps the economy. On the other hand, Arrowhead has a reputation of going into small communities and taking advantage — and basically, pump them dry and good to the last drop," he said, adding that groundwater levels have dropped and he wants the tribe to turn over data about how much water is being pumped.
USA Today reported that an e-mail from Nestle claimed the facility is operated to prevent harm to local groundwater.
Nestle is also pumping water out of the San Bernadino National Forest without a valid permit, while critics also charge that the impact on flora and fauna is unknown, according to an investigation published in the Desert Sun newspaper.”
Steve Loe, a retired Forest Service biologist, told the Desert Sun, "They're taking way too much water. That water's hugely important…Without water, you don't have wildlife, you don't have vegetation."
On its website, Nestle states, “We take our responsibility as a California company and water steward seriously. Our professionally trained geologists, hydro-geologists and engineers follow a rigorous monitoring process to ensure NWNA follows best practices for water management here and across all of our operations.” The company provided videos of a retired U.S. Forest Service supervisor and advisor to Nestlé Waters discussing Nestlé Waters' “commitment to working in partnership with local communities to ensure these natural assets are thriving for generations to come.”