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While Californians Struggle With the Drought, Nestle Wants To Pump Even More Water From The Stricken State

About the only thing you can’t say about Nestle is that they’re inconsistent.

They’ve always been a corporate predator, and the remarks made to the Guardian (by the CEO of Nestle Waters of North America) suggest they’ll always be a corporate predator:

The boss of Nestlé Waters has said the company wants to increase the amount of water it bottles in California despite a devastating drought across the state that has triggered demonstrations at the corporation’s bottling plant.

Tim Brown, chief executive of Nestlé Waters North America, said the company would “absolutely not” stop bottling in California and would actually like to “increase” the amount of ground source water it uses.

Asked in a local radio interview if Nestlé would consider following Starbucks’ lead and stop bottling water in California during the drought, Brown said: “Absolutely not. In fact, if I could increase it, I would.

Just to be clear; California is in the grip of a devastating, historical drought. Five of the last seven years have been drought years, and California’s residents are being told to cut their water use 30%.

For most, that means saying good-bye to landscaping, using buckets to catch the cold water coming out of the shower, idling farmlands (and those who work on them) — and waiting for the day that tap opens and nothing comes out.

Meanwhile, Nestle would pump more water if it could (and wasting approximately 30% of the water they pump).

It’s irresponsible in the extreme, but even more startling is the rhetoric coming from the company; not only are they seemingly overjoyed at the drought, they’d happily make it worse for California’s residents if only they could.

Nestle Taking Water From National Forest Land Using Permit That Expired 27 Years Ago

Nestle would like you to believe they’re a “good corporate citizen” — one that monitors the health of the aquifers it plunders and gives back to its communities.

Which makes you wonder exactly how it was they mined water from a National Park — under a permit that expired in 1988 — 27 years ago.

(No, that’s not a typo.)

From an investigative article in the Desert Sun:

Nestle Waters North America holds a longstanding right to use this water from the national forest near San Bernardino. But the U.S. Forest Service hasn’t been keeping an eye on whether the taking of water is harming Strawberry Creek and the wildlife that depends on it. In fact, Nestle’s permit to transport water across the national forest expired in 1988. It hasn’t been reviewed since, and the Forest Service hasn’t examined the ecological effects of drawing tens of millions of gallons each year from the springs.

Even with California deep in drought, the federal agency hasn’t assessed the impacts of the bottled water business on springs and streams in two watersheds that sustain sensitive habitats in the national forest. The lack of oversight is symptomatic of a Forest Service limited by tight budgets and focused on other issues, and of a regulatory system in California that allows the bottled water industry to operate with little independent tracking of the potential toll on the environment.

Nestle would like you to believe this is just a paperwork snafu, but in the same article, retired Forest Service Biologist Steve Loe had this to say:

“They’re taking way too much water. That water’s hugely important,” said Steve Loe, a biologist who retired from the Forest Service in 2007. “Without water, you don’t have wildlife, you don’t have vegetation.”

The Desert Sun’s article covers a lot of ground, including the usual Nestlespeak, which suggests everything is peachy with Nestle’s water-taking operations — despite the fact the state is in the grip of a record drought, and Nestle’s water use is increasing.

You simply have to wonder — in a state gripped by drought, why is the Forest Service selling water to a bottling company at all?

The habitat is very delicate, and there’s no way Nestle can argue that removing water from a drought-stricken habitat doesn’t affect fish and wildlife.

And what does the public get for allowing Nestle to plunder this precious resource?

$524. A year.

The Nestle Water Talk Digest

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Proposed Cascade Locks Water Bottling Plant Drawing Widespread Opposition (Nestle can’t be happy)

The proposed Nestle water bottling plant in Cascade Locks (the Colombia Gorge) is heating up again, and Nestle – perhaps the least-loved water bottling company on the planet – can’t be happy to see this:

The video caption:

On March 29, 2010, a coalition of environmental and social justice organizations, Keep Nestle Out of the Gorge, led by the consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch, (www.fwwatch.org) launched a coordinated campaign to prevent Nestle Waters North America from opening a water bottling facility in Cascade Locks Oregon.

The coalition gathered at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) offices to speak out against the plant, and to then deliver petitions to the ODFW signed by 4,000 Oregonians who oppose the proposed facility. Keep Nestle Out of the Gorge opposes the deal because a bottled water facility would lead to the commodification of Oregons public water resources, and potentially jeopardize local wildlife, especially native salmon and steel head species.

Save Our Water Sacramento Group Files Administrative Appeal Against Nestle’s Sacramento Plant

Nestle surely thought they’d snuck their Sacramento water bottling plant in through the back door (even a city memo acknowledged the company’s “penchant for secrecy”), but like so many other places, they’re now facing determined opposition.

Sadly for Nestle, the group uncovered a highly questionable permitting process, the appearance of a conflict of interest with a top mayoral advisor, and a development staff seemingly willing to keep the whole project hidden from public view.

In other words, it’s business as usual for Nestle – and at least some of Sacramento’s residents have discovered this sad fact:

Sacramento Press / Group to file Nestlé appeal

In a precursor to any potential legal action, a grassroots organization expects to take its next step in the fight against the Nestlé water-bottling plant by filing an administrative appeal with the city of Sacramento this week.

A Swiss public TV crew is coming to Sacramento Thursday to interview members of the group, Save Our Water Sacramento, which will re-screen the bottled-water documentary “Tapped” at 7 p.m. Thursday at Crest Theatre, 1013 K St.

Afterwards, group leaders will discuss plans to appeal the city’s designation of the Swiss company’s $14-million construction project as ministerial, rather than discretionary. A discretionary designation of a project that could possibly harm the environment triggers a requirement for an environmental assessment under the California Environmental Quality Act. A ministerial designation does not.

The California Environmental Quality Act also requires all administrative remedies be exhausted before a lawsuit can be filed, said Evan Tucker, a Sacramento resident who helps lead Save Our Water Sacramento.

“Those are supposed to exist as an alternative to litigation,” he said. “We can make our case to the city as to why the decision is incorrect.”

The group has been seeking an environmental analysis of the plant since at least September, Tucker said. City Councilmember Kevin McCarty asked the council last month to consider amending the city’s zoning code to immediately require special permits for water-bottling plants, but the proposal was never discussed.

Note the presence of a Swiss film crew; when a French film crew visited McCloud last year, I learned that Nestle’s reputation in Europe is less than sterling.

Surprise.

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