As drought conditions worsen across California water officials have moved to stop Nestlé from siphoning millions of gallons of water out of the San Bernardino forest, which it bottles and sells as Arrowhead brand water.
The California Water Resources Control Board, is engaged in a protracted dispute between the bottled water company and local environmentalists, who for years have accused Nestlé of draining water supplies at the expense of local communities and ecosystems. Nestlé has sucked up, on average, 25 times as much water as it may have a right to, according to an environmental group that has been fighting to stop the bottled water company’s pumping in California for years. Strawberry Creek, which Nestlé has been pumping from, is a tributary of the Santa Ana river, which provides drinking water for about about 750,000 residents. The region’s watersheds also provide a habitat for deer, fox and mountain lions
Nestlé has maintains that its rights to California spring water dates back to 1865. But a 2017 investigation found that Nestlé was taking far more than its share. Last year the company drew out about 58m gallons, far surpassing the 2.3m gallons per year it could validly claim. The company’s fight water in California mirrors similar fights in Oregon, Pennsylvania, Maine and Michigan.
Across the US, conservationists have accused Nestlé of leveraging vast lobbying funds to bend local and federal officials to its will.
“The forests that Nestlé is draining – they’re our forests, supported by every US taxpayer,” said Amanda Frye, an activist who provided state officials with documents and research going back at least a century to show Nestlé did not have the right to the water it was pumping.
State officials sent the company a cease and desist letter .
“We have a limited amount of water, said Julé Rizzardo, the assistant deputy director of the Division of Water Rights. “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.”