California is currently in its fifth year of severe drought, which means all of California remains in a state of emergency. And it’s not just Californians who are impacted, because the state uses its minimal water supply to provide the entire nation with more food than any other state.
Locals, former forest employees, environmental groups, and more have been continuously trying to expose Swiss-based company Nestlé’s reckless behaviour of piping tens of millions of gallons of water out of San Bernardino National Forest annually. From Sacramento alone they take 80 million gallons each year. What’s worse, they are then selling people’s water back to them under the allure of brand names while the state, and consequentially, the nation, suffers the consequences.
The company’s permit to extract water from the park technically expired in 1988, but despite both this legal reality and the ongoing severe drought, they claim to take water management very seriously. So while they write well-articulated responses on their website regarding the issue at hand, many people continue to stand by the fact that it’s absolutely wrong to extract and profit from local waters during a drought.
“Nestlé pays only 65 cents for each 470 gallons it pumps out of the ground – the same rate as an average residential water user. But the company can turn the area’s water around, and sell it back to Sacramento at mammoth profits,” notes a coalition of environmentalists, Native Americans, and other concerned people.
In San Bernardino, the company dishes out a humbling $500 a year to pipe out natural spring water. “This is exactly what happens when water is treated as a commodity and is sold for profit,” explains John Stewart, the Deputy Campaigns Director at the nonprofit Corporate Accountability International. “It is forcing us all as a society to say, ‘Who is providing our water? Is it Nestlé or our own democratically governed towns and cities?’”
To put the unjust operation to a halt, environmental groups are hoping to prove the claim that Nestlé is breaking federal law by operating on an expired permit to extract water from San Bernardino National Forest. “They are taking water from a national forest that desperately needs that water,” says Michael O’Heaney, who is the Executive Director at the Story of Stuff, a group that pushes for the cleanup of consumer culture. “The Forest Service is obligated by law to ensure the natural resources of the forest are protected.”
Will a lawsuit against the company do any good? There is an overwhelming concern that, despite the facts, the law system won’t pull through. As corruption will have it, those with the most money seem to come out ahead.
People are sick of these abuses, however, and will fight to raise awareness anyway. That is why a coalition, made up of the Crunch Nestlé Alliance, the Story of Stuff Project, and co-plaintiffs from the Center for Biological Diversity and the Courage Campaign Institute have filed the lawsuit.
According to the coalition, they are “protesting Nestlé’s virtually unlimited use of water – up to 80 million gallons a year drawn from local aquifers – while Sacramentans (like other Californians) who use a mere 7 to 10 percent of total water used in the State of California, have had severe restrictions and limitations forced upon them.”
Nestlé is the biggest supplier of the world’s bottled water, which includes brand names such as Perrier, San Pellegrino, Pure Life, Ice Mountain, Zephyrhills, Poland Spring, and Deer Park, among others.
We must not sit passively as we watch criminal corporations, criminal governments and banks, and the military industrial complex work together to take away our money, desecrate our environment, and threaten our future.
We need to make it tough for these giant corporations to slip through the cracks. It’s not useless. In fact, other companies fear the negative public relations regarding bottling water during a drought. Starbucks, for instance, agreed to stop sourcing its bottled water brand Ethos in California because of the “serious drought conditions and water conservation efforts in California.” So the more we speak out, the better chance we have of effecting real change.
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