Climate Change Questions Go Unanswered in Nestle’s Chaffee County Water Extraction Project

With questions looming about the effects of climate change on local water supplies, you’d think Chaffee County’s Commissioners would give climate change more than a cursory glance during Nestle’s water extraction project permitting process – especially given the arid nature of Colorado’s climate.

Sadly, that didn’t happen (from the Salida Citizen: Science, commissioners at odds over climate change in Nestle deliberations):

“Conservation has to become an ethic in the West,” said Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, adding the region needs to do more to protect the water that’s already available.

Yet here in Chaffee County, conservation and climate change didn’t merit so much as a passing mention as the Board of County Commissioners began deliberations on a multi-decade commercial water harvesting proposal, even as an overwhelming majority of scientific studies anticipate a reduction of total water supply by the mid-21st century is likely to exacerbate competition for over-allocated water resources especially in the fast-growing West. The county’s own consultants, Colorado National Heritage Progam, cautioned commissioners: “In the interest of maintaining the wetland plant communities, any proposed development plan that impacts water resources should take into consideration global climate change.” Yesterday, CNHP ecologist Delia Malone, writing as a private citizen, spoke out on what she called the commissioners’ “short-sightedness” in dismissing climate change from deliberations on the water harvesting project proposed by Nestle Waters North America.

Two long-term questions need to be answered by every small, rural community facing a Nestle project.

First, with bottled water on the environmental hot seat – and the bottled water market in Europe and USA actually declining – what kind of future does Nestle’s plant really have?

And second – given Nestle’s unwillingness to compromise its pumping rates even when faced with evidence of the damage it’s doing (and its unwillingness to conduct long-term studies or generate useful baseline data) – what kind of legal fund will your town need to establish to protect the aquifer?