California to Nestlé: Stop Draining Our Water

Nestlé Ice Mountain brand water bottles

By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer

As California’s drought conditions are worsening, Nestlé is pumping millions of gallons of water from the San Bernardino forest. State water officials have drafted a cease-and-desist order to force the company to stop overpumping from Strawberry Creek, which provides drinking water for about 750,000 people. Nestlé took 58 million gallons of spring water last year — significantly more than the 2.3 million gallons they could claim, The Guardian reports. The bottled water company pays a measly $2,100 annual permit fee to the U.S. Forest Service and then is allowed to withdraw the water for free.  “We have a limited amount of water,” Julé Rizzardo, the assistant deputy director of the Division of Water Rights, told The Guardian. “And as we face our second dry year in a row, it’s important that we use our authority to protect the municipal water supply and the environment.” 

Why This Matters: It’s not the first time other states have also tried to reign in Nestlé for its water grabs. And, there are layers to the harm caused by Nestlé taking spring water and selling it in plastic bottles: with most of the Western U.S. facing drought, Nestlé’s actions could be dangerous. Plus, overdrawing water harms the plant and animal life in the watershed, from forest trees to mountain lions. Not to mention all the plastic used.  The company could owe as much as $10,000 a day in fines – only a drop in the bucket of its coffers.

Nestlé’s Harm Goes Beyond California

Across the country, Nestlé has a reputation for wrecking water systems for tiny annual fees, and “conservationists have accused Nestlé of leveraging vast lobbying funds to bend local and federal officials to its will,” The Guardian writes

  • In Florida, Nestlé recently had a permit approved to pump nearly 1 million gallons of water a day from Ginnie Springs, one of the state’s freshwater springs, even as reports show that the Santa Fe River system it is a part of is in decline because of pumping. 
  • In Michigan, Nestlé pays a $200 paperwork fee to pump 576,000 gallons of groundwater per day from the headwaters of two cold-water trout streams. 

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