Category Archives: bottled water

Non-Nestle specific bottled water

Nestle Greases Sacramento Skids: Hires Top Mayoral Advisor

In yet another example of Nestle’s penchant for moving quietly into town and recruiting advocates (long before the public’s aware of anything), the company has apparently – in a fairly naked display of influence buying – hired one of the Sacramento Mayor’s top advisors (found in the Chico News & Review):

Michelle Smira, one of Kevin Johnson’s top volunteer advisors, is leaving city hall, and going to work as a consultant for Nestle.

Smira gave her resignation last week, on October 22, and you can read her resignation letter below.

She told SN&R that she’s giving up her role as an official volunteer advisor to the mayor in order to work on Johnson’s strong mayor initiative. She also said that she was not leaving her City Hall role because of any legal conflict of interest, but because she would not otherwise have time to run her public relations business, MMS Strategies.

It just happens that MMS was hired, over the weekend, by Nestle Waters, to help win hearts and minds, and building permits, for its controversial water bottling plant in South Sacramento.

With the Sacramento mayor being one of the biggest boosters of the Nestle project – apparently willing to trade unlimited amounts of water for a handful of jobs (many of which are going to people outside of Sacramento) – it’s clear that Nestle knows whose skids need to be greased (they certainly did in McCloud & they’re certainly doing it right now in Fryeburg).

via Sacramento News & Review > Blogs > SNOG > Revolving door: One of the Mayor’s top advisors goes to work for Nestle > October 28, 2009.

Bad Public Process Follows Nestle Water Bottling Operation to Sacramento

While their claim to “good corporate citizenship” seemingly doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, it is true that Nestle Waters of North America certainly knows how to slink into town and cut a deal before the public is aware of anything.

It’s happened in almost every small town situation (and we’ve certainly mentioned it before) – and it’s happened again in the case of their Sacramento plant.

Not only was the economic development director apparently aiding the company in keeping their project secret, Nestle also took advantage of a (possibly illegal program) that allowed them to begin work on their plant before the necessary permits were issued (via the Sacramento Bee):

For three years, the city of Sacramento has allowed developers to start work on their projects before receiving formal permits.The practice, covered by the controversial Facilities Permit Program FPP, is now part of an expanding city investigation into the operations of its Community Development Department.

That investigation was launched after city officials said the son of a city councilman improperly allowed new homes to be built in the Natomas flood zone – months before permits for those homes were issued.

Questions about the permit program surfaced this week after city officials determined that construction of a new Nestlé water bottling plant was permitted to start with a verbal approval and authorization letter – and not a formal building permit.

You can read the whole post at Sacramento let developers get jump-start before formal permits – Sacramento News – Local and Breaking Sacramento News | Sacramento Bee.

What Nestle Doesn’t Want You to Know About Their Sacramento Water Bottling Plant (From SaveOurWaterSacramento.org)

What Nestle doesn’t want you to know about its plans to open a water bottling plant in Sacramento

* Nestlé and the City of Sacramento worked hard to quietly fast-track this project so Nestlé could open its South Sacramento bottling plant by January 2010. The project was only announced in a brief back page article in the Sacramento Bee at the end of July.

* While Sacramento residents are required to abide by city-imposed water restrictions, Nestlé would be able to siphon water from our municipal water supply 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. According to one staff member at the Economic Development Department, the only limit on the amount of water Nestlé can pump is the size of their pipes.

* Nestlé claims the Sacramento plant would be a “micro-bottling plant,” bottling only 50 million gallons of water per year. However, according to the Department of Utilities, the estimated water usage is 215 thousand – 320 thousand gallons of water per day (78 – 116 millions per year). This would make Nestlé one of the top ten water users in Sacramento at a time when we are in our third consecutive year of a drought.

* According to Nestlé, approximately 30 million gallons of water would come from Sacramento’s municipal water system and 20 million would be trucked to the plant from “private springs.” City staff have refused to answer questions about the springs and Nestlé has provided no information about their location, other than telling the Sacramento News & Review that they are somewhere in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

* Bottling 50 million gallons of water a year would create 800 million water bottles annually. It takes over 400,000 barrels of oil to produce that much plastic. Only 14% of plastic bottles get recycled – the rest end up not only in our landfills, but also in our forests, streams, and oceans.

* The diesel fuel required to truck 20 million gallons of water from the “nearby springs” to Sacramento and 800 million bottles across the state is enormous. Diesel truck emissions contain carbon dioxide and diesel soot, which both contribute to global warming. Diesel exhaust also contributes to air contamination, which is known to cause cancer and other health problems.

* Nestlé would take our tap water and sell it back to us after marking it up over 1,000 times what they paid for it. If Nestlé is allowed to build a water bottling plant in Sacramento, they can take as much water as they want, for as long as they want, without any limits or accountability.

* Water is becoming scarcer as the population grows and the drought continues. The water in Sacramento should be for the plants, animals and humans in this region to live on, not for big companies to amass enormous wealth. If Nestlé is allowed to build this plant, we give up even more control of our water for as long as that plant exists. The City says that Nestlé has a right to move here. Shouldn’t Sacramentans have a right to a secure water supply?

via Save Our Water Sacramento

Sacramento Citizens Not Uniformly Happy About Nestle (SaveOurWaterSacramento.org)

Opposition to Nestle’s zero-public-input, no Environmental Impact Report water bottling operation in Sacramento, CA, is coming under increasing scrutiny.

First, a group has formed to ask the tough questions that apparently the city staff didn’t ask, like how does this fit into the city’s Sustainability Master Plan?

To find out more, visit SaveOurWatersSacramento.org.

Cosmo Garvin of the News & Review riffs on the project, identifying a whole host of issues:

It’s been two months since Nestlé Waters North America announced they plan to build a new bottling plant in Sacramento, where they’ll suck up millions of gallons of delicious Sacramento tap water every year, in order to sell it back to us in plastic at 1,000 times the price (see “Something in the water,” SN&R Bites, July 30).

Well, unlike some mayors that Bites knows, not everybody thinks this is such a great deal for Sacramento. Meet Kristie Harris, spokeswoman for Save Our Water, dedicated to, well, saving our water from corporate takeover. Or, barring that, she at least wants city leaders to ask some basic questions before selling out.

“Giving Nestlé access to unlimited amounts of our water in the third year of a drought is completely unacceptable. There’s been no public forum on this, no environmental impact report, no critical analysis at all.”

via SN&R > Columns > Bites > Going against the flow > 09.24.09.

Orland Bottling Plant Proposal Facing Questions About Secrecy, EIR

The proposed Crystal Geyser water bottling plant in Orland, CA (about 2.5 hours from McCloud) – a project which was hatched under odd, highly secretive circumstances – is now running into determined citizen opposition (perhaps the reason for all the secrecy in the first place).

Here’s some distressingly familiar sounding backstory: For a year, Crystal Geyser consultants have met with elected officials, yet as recently as a few months ago, the company itself refused to be identified (Crystal Geyser).

This understandably outraged some residents, as is the Orland City Council’s newest contention – that the project doesn’t require an EIR.

Opposition is growing, as evidenced by this post from the Chico Synthesis online magazine:

When Orland receives the formal application for the project, that’s when the public is allowed to comment. But Crystal Geyser has been buzzing around since July of last year and still no application, Malcolm Pirnie’s report is still pending, and the application is being delayed in anticipation of that report.

But how responsive to citizen concerns will the city be when their relationship with Crystal Geyser is already a year old, and all kinds of assurances were made about a 160 acre-foot annual withdrawal limit and the tax revenue the city would enjoy?

Save Our Water Resources SOWR, an Orland citizens’ group, is working to help with “due diligence”—the process of figuring out whether the project is worth implementing and what the dangers are. One of SOWR’s concerns is that the average Orland citizen doesn’t even know that the project is being discussed; their goal is to increase citizen awareness through petitioning and outreach.

Another significant SOWR concern is that Crystal Geyser, being an international corporation, would be above local, state and federal law—any response that Orland might need to take to regulate the corporation would have to go through international courts, which function in extreme slow motion. While the citizens of Orland should really be the deciding factor in whether the plant moves forward or not, there is widespread concern in the region about allowing corporate extraction of groundwater for out-of-district sale.

If this sounds familiar to anyone, please raise your hand. Oh. All of you.

Behind Closed Doors

That’s correct – this whole Crystal Geyser mess is right out of Nestle’s playbook; they sweep into a rural town unused to dealing with a big corporation, woo the leaders with unwritten promises and assurances nothing will go wrong – all the while operating under the radar of an unaware public.

By the time the water bottling plant becomes public, much of the damage is done, and befuddled elected officials begin advocating for the corporation, not their constituents.

It happened in McCloud, it’s happening right now in Cascade Locks, it happened in Chaffee County, and yes – Nestle’s takeover of the Fryeburg political scene is occurring as we speak – as I sadly predicted it would.

It appears that Crystal Geyser is a fast learner, though I suspect residents may have the final say in this mess – especially once it becomes public that Crystal Geyser sued the town of Calistoga over another well it drilled.

The Synthesis story was sketchy about the details, but it’s clear that legal means are part and parcel of the bottled water playbook – no matter whose name is on the letterhead:

Back to that toxic plume. This is the story that’s circulating: At Crystal Geyser’s plant in Calistoga, they sunk an 800-foot well which ended up contaminated with boron from geothermal water.  Crystal Geyser then sued the city for impairing their profit. This information is sketchy at best, and a public records request has been filed for the actual story as the City of Calistoga has it. The City Clerk was contacted and would only say that Crystal Geyser brought a suit against the city, but that it never went to trial, and that for any more information a formal request was required.

It is possible—and an employee at the environmental consulting company retained by Crystal Geyser admitted as much—that prolonged pumping would cause the plume to migrate into the well and possibly into surrounding wells. What then? A lawsuit which Crystal Geyser could easily afford and Orland could not?

Again, more secrecy. The lawsuit information remains woefully incomplete, and I’ll endeavor to update you as soon as I find more information.

You can read the entire post via Crystal Mess | Synthesis Weekly Serving Chico, CA Since 1995.

Bottled Water Documentary TAPPED Showing at Eugene Film Festival

The Documentary Tapped – which looks at bottled water, and also examines Nestle Waters of North America’s role in the Fryeburg fiasco – will be showing in Eugene, OR in October:

The Documentary TAPPED has just been accepted into the juried 501 c 3 non profit Eugene International Film Festival, slated for October 8-11, 2009 in Eugene, Oregon.

Please visit www.eugenefilmfest.org later in September to find the date and time – Regal Cinemas 15, Vallet River. For more information, call Board member Jeff Johnston, 541-485-8203

.

FLASH: Nestlé Waters Ends Bid for McCloud, CA Water Bottling Plant

When the end came, it came swiftly for Nestle’s proposed McCloud (CA) water bottling plant:

Nestlé Waters North America has decided to withdraw its proposal to build a bottling facility in McCloud.

Ever since Nestle negotiated its rapacious contract with the McCloud Services District in 2003 (largely behind closed doors), then pressured the board to approve it at the end of the first public input meeting, Nestle’s McCloud project has become one of the company’s biggest public relations liabilities.

First there were the string of lawsuits, and as the specifics of the contract came to light, outright indignation at the lopsided nature of the deal.

Here was a predatory multinational preying on a small rural town – as it had in other locations – but this time, not all the local residents were willing to shrug it off and walk away.

Instead, they rallied, formed groups, gained a small amount of financial backing, garnered a significant amount of international media attention, and ultimately forced Nestle to abandon its hugely one-sided contract.

Instead, in 2008, Nestle began the flow monitoring studies it should have begun in 2003, but the process was made redundant when Nestle negotiated a fast-track deal in Sacramento that better reflected the realities of rising fuel costs and pissed-off, distrustful McCloud residents.

Unfortunately for Nestle, the damage was already done to their normally behind-the-scenes work in rural areas; now almost every Nestle extraction or bottling project finds itself opposed by citizens who have learned what Nestle’s truly capable due to their actions in McCloud, Fryeburg, Mecosta, and others.

And yes – due to activists and the informational power of the Internet – Nestle’s been forced to address questions about its predatory behavior in rural areas.

Whether Nestle has turned over a less-predatory leaf in its pursuit of spring water from rural sources remains to be seen, and yes – significant questions about the environmental impacts and privatization of a critical resource are far from answered.

Still, in this one place – in this tiny mountain town – Nestle stumbled badly, tripped up by a small group whose victory will no doubt be noticed by others facing Nestle in their area.

via Nestlé Waters ends pursuit of McCloud facility – Mount Shasta, CA – Mount Shasta Herald.

Motley Fool: Bottled Water Batters the Blue Chips

The Motley Fool investment site suggests the jig is up for bottled water, citing pluning sales figures.

More importantly, their reaction to the products suggests a larger problem for bottled water than the recession; When even Wall Street thinks your product represents “one of the weirdest episodes in the history of corporate marketing,” you’re no longer cool:

More than a year ago, my Foolish colleague Alyce Lomax called the bottled-water craze “one of the weirdest episodes in the history of corporate marketing, not to mention consumer behavior.”

I couldn’t agree more.

And while consumers were already starting to rethink their habits at that time, we may now be seeing a full-fledged paradigm shift.

A recent Wall Street Journal article reported that U.S. sales of Coke’s Dasani brand plummeted almost 26% — excluding sales at Wal-Mart Stores NYSE: WMT — in the 12 weeks ended Aug. 8.

In contrast, Pepsi’s Aquafina showed a 13.8% dip, and consumers enjoyed a 5% price discount. The Poseidon of the U.S. bottled-water market, Nestle OTC BB: NSRGY, saw its first-half 2009 global water sales slump nearly 3% on an organic basis, largely because of weakness in North America and Europe.

Found via Bottled Water Batters the Blue Chips.

What’s Next for Nestle in Chaffee County? Perhaps Not What It Expects…

Now that Nestle’s Chaffee County water extraction project has been permitted – despite the opposition of an overwhelming majority of the citizenry – we have to ask: What’s next?

Salida Citizen reporter Lee Hart – who provided detailed coverage of the entire saga – pens a thoughtful opinion piece about what’s next for the community:

Last week, the commissioner voted unanimously to support conditional approval of Nestle’s operations in this county. The permit approval contains 44 conditions totaling 11 pages which County Commissioner Chair Frank Holman said he trusts the world’s largest food and beverage company will abide by, adding that he also calls on local citizens to serve as watchdogs of the project. A final, formal resolution on the project is expected to be reviewed for adoption before Oct. 18.

Nestle assured the Citizen it would abide by the conditions and be a “good neighbor.” Yet nothing about Nestle’s actions throughout the public review process lead me to share in Holman’s naïve optimism and Nestle’s verbal assurances that Nestle will be a good neighbor and happily comply with all 44 conditions of approval of their permit.

At best this project will be an ongoing series of unwieldy hassles for county staff; at worst, a complete environmental disaster.

I sincerely hope the citizens of Chaffee County don’t experience the environmental and legal nightmares visited upon residents of places like Fryeburg (ME), Mecosta County (MI), McCloud (CA) and a bundle of others.

Yet it’s clear that where Nestle goes, lawsuits and environmental damage often follow – as do Nestle’s corporate spinmeisters, who say one thing while the Swiss multinational does another.

Hart alludes to this sad tendency. And offers a glimpse into the future of the county commissioners who campaigned on water issues, then folded like a cheap tent in a hurricane – even after Nestle’s application and analysis were found badly lacking:

From all appearances, only public pressure and opposing county consultant analysis moved Nestle to make major concessions like the removal of the Bighorn Springs parcel and promise of a permanent conservation easements. There are clear indications Nestle spun facts and the truth in its pursuit of county approval, most notably in a tense debate with Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District General Manager Terry Scanga.

But it  also seems like an unfair fight when a giant multinational corporation picked as its first target in Colorado, a small rural community of limited financial resources, dearth of technical expertise and glaring voids in regulations at the local and state level to definitively protect it against such commercial water grabs. And there’s no question Nestle can and still may well overpower this community with its vast resources in order to win any future argument about any aspect of the project.

While the commissioners had the opportunity to reject the proposal, thereby concurring with public and staff testimony that the application did not satisfy all the terms of the 1041 permit process, they chose instead to approve the project with a lengthy list of conditions they felt addressed the public’s concerns and brought the project into 1041 compliance. In so doing they also reneged on campaign assurances and stump speeches about green being the color of the future here and vowing to keep water in the valley.

You can read Hart’s piece in its entirety at Nestle saga moves toward next chapter.

More Local Reaction to Chaffee County Nestle Decision: “Nestlé Fight Is Not Finished”

It’s interesting to note that the much comprehensive, critical coverage of the Nestle water extraction project in Chaffee County originated from online local news sites.

In the rare instances that larger media outlets (like the LA Times’ Denver bureau) got involved, they often deferred to Nestle’s corporate spokesman, and offered little in the way of real analysis.

One local Chaffe County news site offering coverage was the Ark Valley Voice (whose masthead includes the famous Joseph Pulitzer quote: “Newspapers should have no friends”).

They published an editorial suggesting the Nestle fight wasn’t over, citing a screening of the new bottled water documentary “Tapped” and a visit from Michigan environmental attorney Jim Olson, who helped fight Nestle to a standstill in Mecosta County.

From the Ark Valley Voice:

The second part of the evening featured a presentation by Jim Olson, the Michigan based attorney who fought Nestlé for nine years with some significant victories. He spoke at Thursday evening’s event thanks to efforts by Nestlé’s formal, local opposition, Chaffee Citizens for Sustainability (CCFS). Olson’s message was simple and optimistic: Nestlé can still be turned back, Chaffee County can do it.

But he also warned that the stakes are high, urging people to remember that, “This is not a dead issue. It’s just been born. Their (the Commissioners) vote gave birth to the issue of beneficial use in Colorado.” Nestlé’s move to Chaffee County, he warned, could set a dangerous and unanticipated precedent.

The precedent Olson refers to is the jurisdiction of the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA. Olson indicated that supporters of Nestlé might consider that NAFTA currently holds no power over Colorado’s Public Water systems. But, with the slow creep of water from a publicly held right to a privately held commodity, Chaffee County’s children could someday compete with Canada and Mexico for access at the kitchen faucet.

County Commissioners who ran for election based on keeping water in the Valley along with speeches regarding green as the color of the future, may have reneged on their promises in more ways than they understand. That’s because once water is privatized, it is very difficult to fend off international intervention.

Olson encouraged folks, however, not to get bogged down with what has passed, but rather to look forward to what can be done. He reminded the large SteamPlant crowd that the Commissioners’ approval is only one minor gateway on the path to Nestlé’s pumping operations. For example, Nestlé still needs to get past State water engineers and have its plans approved by the State Water Court, which can be a lengthy process.

While the word “recall” was heard in association with the current Commissioners, the focus was largely on defeating Nestlé rather than punishing elected officials. In that vein, Olson says there is plenty to do, including:

1. Funds must be raised to combat the bottler in the Water Court.

2. Local opposition must get vocal and energized. Olson reminded people that this campaign is not to be short lived. Nestlé is not defeated overnight, but in the long run.

3. Records should be scoured via the Freedom of Information act in order to examine every interaction Nestlé has with public officials.

4. Send letters to the governor and legislators and let them know that Colorado wants to keep its water public.

5. Join forces with CCFS to help create a long-range plan to combat not only the current erroneous use of Colorado’s water, but also any future incursions. You can donate time, money, or any other skill you have.

Olson also reminded everyone with a stake in the future of the area’s water resources that, “You in Colorado have a chance to draw the line on beneficial water use and use your constitution to say that water is for the people.”

He concluded, “You can define this popularly. It’s the public that has to say, ‘this water is ours and this use of it is wrong.’”

You can read the rest of this opinion piece here: EDITORIAL: Nestlé Fight Is Not Finished | Ark Valley Voice.

Bottled Water Industry Vilifying Tap Water In Attempt to Bolster Sagging Sales

“Good corporate citizen” Nestle never passes up an opportunity to spin its “good neighbor” message to the world, but according t0 a memo obtained by the UK Scotsman, Nestle’s part of a campaign attempting to vilify the quality of tap water.

The Scotsman obtained a 3-page memo written by a PR firm working for the Natural Hydration Council (the UK’s bottled water industry trade group that’s the equivalent of North America’s IBWA).

Nestle is a leading player in the group, and we’ll let the Scotsman’s reporter lay out the ugly details:

AIDES working for bottled water producers are planning to use scare tactics to protect falling sales in Scotland by attacking the quality of tap water supplied to consumers.

The tactics are outlined in a memorandum drawn up by a public relations company employed by the industry to be used in case “the media turns hostile to our cause”.

It suggests using data on contamination of public water supplies with potentially-harmful bugs, such as E Coli and cryptosporidium, to highlight the merits of drinking bottled water. Sales of bottled water have fallen nationally over the last year because of the effects of the recession on disposable incomes.

The memo, obtained by Scotland on Sunday, was written by a London PR company working for the Natural Hydration Council, an industry lobby group funded by three major bottled water companies. They include Nestlé, which markets Vittel and Perrier; Danone, which produces Volvic and Evian; and Perthshire-based Highland Spring.

The Scotsman quoted several passages in the memo which clearly indicate the PR firms plan to attack the quality of bottled water should media coverage turn “hostile” – but later the writer of the memo contradicts what he wrote.

It was sent to an Edinburgh-based communications company, 3X1 – which is paid by the industry to lobby on its behalf – to be deployed on the same day as the annual publication of Scotland’s Drinking Water Quality Regulator, last Thursday.

The regulator’s report concluded that the quality of Scottish drinking water remains “extremely high” with 99.75 per cent of supplies meeting safety standards. It adds that two tap samples in Scotland contained E Coli in 2008, an improvement on 2007 when five failures were recorded.

[ed: emphasis mine] This prompted Julie McGarvey, of 3X1 to write to her colleague James Laird, at Epicurus Communications in London: “Clock the E Coli data. Good to keep up our sleeve.”

Laird wrote back that he had already written a memo, based on an analysis of reports by the Drinking Water Inspectorate in England, that had “observations” that might be useful “should the media turn hostile towards our cause.”

He adds that the report offers “potential sound-bite notes that could be used for NHC un-attributable media briefings.” “Unattributable briefings” is lobby group shorthand for information passed to journalists on condition they do not name their source.

After reading the last paragraph above, now read the astonishing denial by the consultant who wrote the quoted memo:

Asked whether the examples of problems in the public water supply would be communicated to journalists, he replied: “Absolutely not. The NHC supports the consumption of all water, whether bottled or tap. There is no intent, desire or mandate to criticise tap water on behalf of the NHC.”

One word leaps to mind.

Sleazy.

Earlier, we chronicled the attacks launched on tap water quality by none other than Nestle Waters CEO Kim Jeffries and another UK bottler.

And even journalist and author Elizabeth Royte thinks its time to end the charade:

The bottled water industry continues to claim it competes not with tap water but with high-calorie and other processed drinks. The argument is getting a little tired.

And yes, one reason industries form trade groups like the Natural Hydration Council or North America’s International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) is so water bottlers don’t have to get their hands dirty.

They simply pay others to do their dirty work for them.

We’ve noted in the past that the bottled water industry – facing tough economic conditions and opposition on environmental grounds – will increasingly turn to FUD tactics (Fearn, Uncertainty, Doubt) to drive sales.

In this case, the evidence fell into the right hands, but how much of this kind of thing is currently being planned behind closed doors elsewhere?

Why else would the IBWA hire former Tobacco Institute spokesperson Tom Lauria?

In the light of stories like this, it’s clear.

The real “product” of the Tobacco Institute was “doubt” – an ongoing effort to undermine good science detailing the hazards of smoking, confusing consumers and providing cover for the industry.

Expect to see more “doubt” sown by the bottled water industry about the quality of the water that comes out of your tap.

And when you do, recognize it for what it is.

via Bottled water firms turn to scare tactics – Scotsman.com News.

US Bottled Water Sales Decline 6% Last Year

We knew the water bottlers were facing a decline – and a price war seems to be breaking out – but we finally found a hard number to go with the intuition:

For the year ended July 12, U.S. sales of bottled water fell 6 percent to $7.6 billion, according to market-research firm Information Resources Inc., whose figures don’t include sales from Wal-Mart Stores Inc., reports the Wall Street Journal.

Between the double whammy of a falling market and price competition, some of those new Nestle plants have got to be looking a little dicey (as do the jobs promised to small communities).

Found via Facing Declining Demand, Water Bottlers Start Price War · Environmental Leader · Green Business, Sustainable Business, and Green Strategy News for Corporate Sustainability Executives.