Nestle Waters North America is the largest producer of bottled water in the United States. For the past 60 years, Nestle has taken nearly 63 million gallons of water from California’s San Bernardino spring. After a two-year investigation by the California State Water Board, it was discovered that Nestle did not have the legal permits for a good portion of that water. Despite that, the U.S. Forest Service recently made an offer to Nestle to continue drawing millions of gallons of water from the spring.
However, it is not an offer without terms, and Nestle will have two months to decide whether they’ll accept those terms.
Most of the water Nestle collects comes from the Strawberry Creek watershed, a waterway that is currently rated as “impaired.” Under the Forest Service’s proposal, Nestle will only be allowed to collect from the watershed whenever water levels are consistent with the overall Land Management Plan.
The investigation that led to the action was sparked by complaints filed against Nestle during the severe drought that plagued California over the past couple of years. The complaints ranged in terms of the accusations that were actually made, but the majority stated that Nestle did not have the appropriate rights to the water and that their actions were actually harming the environment.
Records show that Nestle has been operating in the area under a permit that was actually issued in 1988 to Arrowhead Puritas Waters Inc., a company that they purchased in 1992. When the news got out, many demanded that the permit be subject to review. Ultimately, a lawsuit was filed by environmentalists and a full investigation was launched.
In response to the offer made by the Forest Service, Nestle has stated that it will “carefully review” the details.
In a statement, Nestle said, “Californians are passionate about water and so are we. We take our responsibility as a California water steward seriously and Arrowhead’s successful operations for more than a century point to our commitment to long-term sustainability.”
Environmentalists are still not happy with Nestle depleting the Strawberry Creek area, and they feel that their actions are harming the area wildlife. It’s not likely we’ve seen the end of the protests regarding this particular topic.