At the bottom, tanker trucks load and transport it to a nearby plant where they bottle the water. In Strawberry Creek, the Forest Service is requiring a three-year study of Nestlé’s impact on the watershed as part of the terms of the five-year permit it issued. Spring water collects in this tunnel and moves downhill through a pipeline. Where Nestlé sees a healthy environment, conservationists see one struggling. During that time, he witnessed “devastating” Forest Service budget cuts that made it impossible to monitor Nestle’s activities or properly manage the forest, but Nestlé was there to help – it set up a nonprofit to solicit money for projects. Nestlé collects millions of gallons a year from springs in Southern California, an area prone to drought. He says it’s bottled water maker Nestle, which dug a deep well that is depriving locals of potable water. It calls itself a job creator that invests heavily in local municipalities and says it bottles a minuscule amount of the nation’s water. Nestlé resource manager Larry Lawrence insists the company obtained the right to Strawberry Creek’s when it purchased Arrowhead, and says its science backs claims that it draws water “sustainably”. In Michigan, where the company is pumping 1,100 gallons per minute across several wells, it paid for new ambulances and fireworks for economically struggling communities. It presents itself as a responsible steward of America’s water and an eco-friendly “healthy hydration” company aiming to save the world’s freshwater supply. “We have confidence in the science behind our application from the 18 years’ worth of environmental data collected near the site since beginning our operations in Michigan,” the company said in a statement. Lawrence notes the meadow is a green, lush area that bears use as a water source, and the sound of the flowing stream is drowned out by buzzing from mosquitoes – a sign of a healthy ecosystem. While the company takes about 30 million gallons each year, they pay just $524 to the U.S. Forest Service for the permit. But water belongs to no one.". Its spending on lobbying and campaign contributions at the federal and state levels totals in the millions annually, the revolving door between the company and government perpetually turns, and it maintains cozy relationships with federal officials from the Forest Service to Trump administration. Photograph: Don Ryan/AP, The fight to stop Nestlé from taking America's water to sell in plastic bottles. “They’re a foreign corporation taking our natural resources, which makes it even worse.”. © 2017 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. Most eastern states allow landowners to bottle water as long as there isn’t “measurable diminishment” of water levels and flow, Olson said. As sales have grown, so has opposition. Science is tough. By 2016, bottled water sales had surpassed soda as the largest US beverage category, with Americans consuming 12.8bn gallons that year. Nestlé Waters, which owns 51 brands including Ice Mountain, Poland Spring, and Zephyrhills, sees a much different reality. We’re doing the science,” Lawrence said. Nestlé has faced protests over its water collection in California because of the drought and the fact that this site is on public land. Some Fryeburg residents have been attempting to dislodge Nestlé since the early 2000s. The source of America’s corporate water crisis can be traced back to 1976 when Perrier, now owned by Nestlé, opened an office in New York. Switzer says Nestlé takes its responsibility as a water steward very seriously. The Dead River case represented a major victory for conservationists. Though it’s a relatively minor change, Sekera said the symbolism is strong: “It speaks – there’s no doubt about that.”. In Fryeburg, Maine, resident Nickie Sekera says the small former timber town’s fire department once offered a spigot from which residents could draw free water if a well ran dry or another problem necessitated it. Meanwhile, the state is investigating whether Nestlé is illegally drawing from Strawberry Creek and in 2017 advised it to “immediately cease any unauthorized diversions”. Last year Nestlé siphoned 45m gallons of pristine spring water from the creek and bottled it under the Arrowhead Water label. ... Forest Service’s Strawberry Creek permit decision references a 2017 Trump executive order that seems to speak to the controversy. “You have to be conscious of the legal framework and a subtle shifting toward privatization of water without you knowing it,” he added. Last year Nestlé siphoned 45m gallons of pristine spring water from the creek and bottled it under the Arrowhead Water label. The FDA abruptly reversed its position several months later after a former FDA regulator representing Nestlé went to the company. Nestle is extracting millions of gallons of water from a national forest in California to sell as bottled water, even as drought-hit residents are having to cut back on water use. The best and last line of defense is the public trust doctrine, Olson said, which he called the “backstop to protect public waters”. “Accusations are simple. The Forest Service is now reviewing Nestle's permit for the first time in 30 years. He won the 2003 Dead River case by proving Nestlé violated that rule. As part of its comprehensive Fryeburg public relations campaign, Nestlé presents itself as longtime Maine label Poland Springs, which it acquired in 1992, instead of a Swiss multinational, Sekera said. Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the our 24/7 digital news network. “When those springs are dying a death from a thousand cuts, one more cut isn’t going to kill them, but it’s not advisable to take more when they’re showing all sorts of signs of stress,” he said. In April, before a Maine legislature committee vote on new protections for state water, Nestlé launched an approximately $1m Facebook ad blitz targeting the region. Anticipating shortages, companies like Nestlé are trying to lock in as much of the world’s water as possible, explained Solomon. The Forest Service recently determined Nestlé’s activities left California’s Strawberry Creek ‘impaired’ while ‘the current water extraction is drying up surface water resources’. Earney sees an ecosystem that “should be much more lush”. While conservationists agree that pool water could be subjected to fees, Nisha Swinton, senior organizer at the Food and Water Watch environmental group, says the public – not a company that “has to appease their stockholders and make money on privatizing water” – should be responsible for that. Nestle has agreed to sell its Pure Life bottled water brand in Canada to family-owned company Ice River Springs, based in Ontario.. Nestle, which has been taking billions of litres of water from Canadian underground aquifers, completes the sale just as new restrictions on taking groundwater are coming into effect in October. Evart public schools’ superintendent Howard Hyde said in 2005 that he was “tickled” by Nestlé funding new baseball diamonds for the district’s baseball team. Copyright © 2020 CBS Interactive Inc.All rights reserved.
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