The Guardian reports on Californian water officials have proceeded to stop Nestlé from siphoning millions of gallons of water out from the Californian forest of San Bernardino, which it bottles and sells as Arrowhead brand water.
The decision came in response to the severe drought conditions worsening across the state. If the state water board approves the order against Nestle’s water bottling company Blue Triton, they could face fines of up to $1,000 a day or up to $10,000 a day if a drought is declared in the area of siphoning.
A draft cease-and-desist order, which requires approval from the California Water Resources Control Board, is the latest development in the battle between Nestlé and local environmentalists. The order comes two months after the company sold its US and Canada-based water brands to two equity firms for $4.3bn. Before the sale, Nestlé Waters North America was the largest bottled water company in the nation, paying the Forest Service a permit fee of $2,100 per year while siphoning its water for free.
Nestlé maintains that it has the rights to the water spring dating back to 1865, but officials claim that officials cannot easily challenge the company’s rights to the creek water before 1914.
A 2017 investigation found that they drew 58m gallons surpassing the company claims that they are only drawing 2.3 gallons per year. According to the Story of Stuff Project, an environmental group fighting the cause to stop Nestlé’s operations, claim the company has siphoned on average 25 times as much water as they are permitted.
Excessive siphoning carried out by the bottled water companies in the Santa Ana river networks has the potential to threaten the available drinking water for 75,000 residents and cause environmental harm to the local wildlife.
Much of the western US is facing extreme drought conditions. Californian Governor Gavin Newsom, has declared a regional drought emergency, with the climate crisis bringing hotter and drier conditions, leaving the state more vulnerable to water shortages and wildfires.
The company are facing similar fights in Oregon, Pennsylvania, Maine and Michigan, with conservationists accusing Nestlé of lobbying local and federal officials.
Amanda Frye, a key activist who has been supporting the state official’s research on Nestlé’s activities praised the draft order, but stated that “we still have a long way to go in protecting the forest”.