Nestlé’s (Stamford, CT) Arrowhead brand of bottled water is back in the news again but this time it isn’t for its green efforts. Just this week, the Story of Stuff Project, the California-based Courage Campaign Institute, and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service for permitting Nestlé to continue to bottle millions of gallons of water from the San Bernardino National Forest with a permit that expired 27 years ago.
The lawsuit specifically targets Nestlé’s four-mile pipeline that siphons water from San Bernardino National Forest’s Strawberry Creek to its bottling operations in Ontario, California. The groups are urging the Court to shut down the pipeline effective immediately, and order the U.S. Forest Service to conduct a full permitting process that includes environmental reviews.
In 2014 alone, an estimated 28 million gallons were piped away from the forest to be bottled and sold under Nestlé’s Arrowhead brand of bottled water. The permit expired in 1988 but the piping system remains in active use, siphoning about 68,000 gallons of water a day out of the forest last year.
“We Californians have dramatically reduced our water use over the past year in the face of an historic drought, but Nestlé has refused to step up and do its part,” said Michael O’Heaney, Executive Director of the Story of Stuff Project. “Until the impact of Nestlé’s operation is properly reviewed, the Forest Service must turn off the spigot.”
According to a recent report, the water levels at Strawberry Creek are at an all time low. In exchange for allowing Nestlé to continue siphoning water from the Creek, the U.S. Forest Service makes out with just $524 a year, less than the average Californian’s water bill.
“Nestlé’s actions aren’t just morally bankrupt, they are illegal. In the spring, we asked Nestlé to do the right thing, and they threw it back in our faces, telling Californians they’d take more of our water if they could,” explained Eddie Kurtz, Executive Director of the California-based Courage Campaign Institute. “The U.S. Forest Service has been enabling Nestlé’s illegal bottling in the San Bernardino National Forest for 27 years, and it has to stop. Our government won’t stand up to them, so we’re taking matters into our own hands.”
“California is in the middle of its worst drought in centuries and the wildlife that rely on Strawberry Creek, including southwestern willow flycatchers and numerous amphibians, are seeing their precious water siphoned away every day,” said Ileene Anderson with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s inexcusable for the Forest Service to allow this piping system to continue year after year without a permit or any review of how it’s impacting wildlife or local streams. The forest and the wildlife that live there deserve better.”
Recently there was a petition with more than 500,000 signatures calling on Nestlé to stop bottling water during the drought, and a poll found that a majority of people in the U.S. believe Nestlé should stop bottling in California. Despite the clear public outcry, when asked about the controversy, Nestlé CEO Tim Brown remarked that he wished the multinational corporation could bottle more water from the drought-stricken land.
Last week PlasticsToday published an article on how Nestlé Waters North America Inc. was expanding its use of recycled content in its Arrowhead water brand for many of its most popular sized bottles by the end of 2016.