By: Emma Jablonski
Summary. Nestle has been siphoning water from a southern California watershed in San Bernardino forest, and selling it through their Arrowhead Brand bottled water. The company itself states, “For more than 125 years, BlueTriton Brands and its predecessors have sustainably collected water from Arrowhead Springs in Strawberry Canyon. We take pride in being good stewards of the environment, while providing an excellent product loved by Californians.” Nestle has had rights to California spring water since the year 1865, but many California officials have been accusing Nestle of taking more water in the forest than they are permitted to. While these accusations took place in April of 2021, It didn’t help the situation when California had confirmed a drought emergency in two counties already. Environmental groups and local communities have said that Nestle’s water usage will have a negative impact on both local ecosystems and communities as the droughts and wildfires continue to worsen in California. They also argue that water shouldn’t be sold in plastic packaging, contributing to an already accelerating waste crisis. Another investigation took place in 2015, where the US Forest Service allowed Nestle to siphon forest water with a permit that expired in 1988. In 2018, Nestle was given a three year permit but in turn they had to follow Water Rights and state laws. Nestle could have also been fined around $500-1,000 a day, for everyday that they’ve taken water since 2018. As of now though, no penalties or fines have been put in place for the company.
Why we should care? I think we should care about this topic at hand because it's important for us as consumers to know where any type of bottled water we buy is sourced from, if it's having a negative environmental impact on its ecosystem.
I found this article interesting because Nestle is taking water from a forest that's already suffering from droughts and has a high risk of wildfire. It's no doubt that this would make those conditions worse. I was also surprised to learn that water board officials said Nestle is only allowed to take about 2.4 million gallons of surface water every year, but the company itself stated that they collected 59 million gallons of water from the system in 2020. I'm not sure how they get away with that, but it's crazy to hear how much water they're actually taking.
Science in Action.
Victor Vasquez is the head senior engineer of water rights enforcement at California Water Resources Control Board.
I was unsuccessful in finding an actual scientist who researches the topic of Nestle taking water from California, but there are many legal experts in the field. Victor Vasquez is an engineer at the California Water Resources Control Board that deals with situations like these ones. State regulators found that Nestle is entitled to a total of 26 acre-feet that includes surface water and groundwater. Vasquez and his team have found that Nestle has been taking unauthorized water as much as 152 acre-feet. As of now, Vasquez's team has successfully kept them within that 26 acre-feet limit, even though Nestle claims they have more.