California just entered its fourth year in record-breaking drought, but that hasn’t stopped food and beverage giant Nestlé from drawing water from multiple reserves in the state to make its bottled water.
People are furious.
Boycott California almonds and Nestle water, they are making the drought 1000x worse.
— DrLearnALot (@DrLearnALot) April 4, 2015
Word on the streets is Nestle corp. has been bottling & selling California water at 100% during the drought while residents receive rations.
— Ferrari Sheppard (@stopbeingfamous) April 6, 2015
nestle is bottling 80 million gal. of water for their own profit while California is suffering its worst drought in years… satan is real
— Bojana (@burekprincess) April 2, 2015
The company uses California water in its Arrowhead and Pure Life brands, which usually sell for about a dollar each.
In response, a group has drawn up a petition demanding that Nestle halt its operations in the state.
The campaign is being run by Courage, a nonprofit organisation based in California, and it’s gathered 135,000 signatures since going up at the end of March.
Nestlé gets to draw water from this area of the state thanks to its longstanding contract with the Morongo Band of Cahuila Mission Indians, who are based in a southern area of the state near the Coachella Valley, according to the Desert Sun. The company’s plant is based just inside the Morongo Reservation.
Regardless of where the plant is located, there are currently no laws on the books to regulate how much water can be taken from underground aquifers (a.k.a. “groundwater.”) New regulations were recently introduced for this exact purpose, but they won’t kick in for serveral years. The only laws that exist now govern surface water, the kind in rivers and lakes.
“All water belongs to people of the state, but if [Nestlé is] drawing groundwater, that is unregulated,” public information officer for the California State Water Resources Control Board Tim Moran told ABC News. That means Nestlé (and anyone else, for that matter) can draw as much water from the area’s underground aquifers as it wants.
And they’re taking quite a lot, at least by some accounts.
In 2013, the most recent year for which Morongo submitted reports, nearly 600 acre-feet of groundwater was tapped in the area, which translates to about 200 million gallons a year, the Desert Sun reports. That’s enough water to supply the needs of around 400 homes in the Coachella Valley.
Still, that amount pales compared to the amount California Governor Jerry Brown hopes to save (500 billion gallons) with the water restrictions announced last week.
But some argue that drawing any amount from this area is dangerous, especially in the middle of Califonria’s worst drought in 1,200 years.
“The reason this particular plant is of special concern is precisely because water is so scarce in the basin,” Peter Gleick, president of a water research non-profit and author of the book “Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water” told the Desert Sun.
“If you had the same bottling plant in a water-rich area, then the amount of water bottled and diverted would be a small fraction of the total water available,” he added. “But this is a desert ecosystem. Surface water in the desert is exceedingly rare and has a much higher environmental value than the same amount of water somewhere else.”
In other words — especially now — every drop counts.
Business Insider has reached out to Nestlé for comment and will update this post when they get back to us.
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