U.S. Forest Service Investigates Nestle Water – Environmental Review To Check If Bottling Plant Worsening Drought And Impacting Species

U.S. Forest Service Reviews Nestle Waters’ California Operation – Environmental Review To Check If Bottling Plant Worsening Drought [Update]

Nestle Waters’ bottling plant in California is under review by the U.S. Forest Service. Locals demanding the environmental review of Nestle Waters’ North American bottling operations in Southern California’s San Bernardino National Forest have long alleged that the company has been siphoning off millions of liters of water from drought-hit California.

Amidst persistent allegations that Nestle Waters has been sucking California dry, the U.S. Forest Service is now reviewing the company’s bottling operations in Southern California’s San Bernardino National Forest. Nestle was officially sued in October by environmental and public interest groups. The groups have been claiming that the company has been operating with impunity with a long-expired permit. According to the Desert Sun, the Nestle Corporation has been sucking water out of a Southern California national forest for its bottled water with a permit that was last reviewed 37 years ago.

According to the company’s own admission, it used 95 million liters (25 million gallons) of water in 2014. The plaintiffs have alleged a similar number. According to a statement, the piping system siphoned about 68,000 gallons of water a day out of the forest in the same year.

The groups protesting Nestle Waters further allege that the prolonged drought that California has been facing has been worsened by the company’s water bottling operation. The groups, led by the Center for Biological Diversity, further claim that the combined effect of the drought and the plant has been adversely affecting wildlife. Species, such as Least Bell’s Vireo and California spotted owls, would significantly benefit if the water supply is improved, according to the lawsuit.

From a legal perspective, Nestle Waters is permitted to continue drawing water while its permit is under review. The company insists that it has submitted an application to have its permit renewed.

“The USFS has repeatedly informed Nestlé Waters North America (NWNA) that we can lawfully continue our operations pending the reissuance of our permit and that the provisions of our existing permit are still in force until the effective date of a new permit. NWNA has continued to receive and pay invoices from the USFS for the annual permit fee, as we have since it was first issued. We also continue to report our water use from the spring to the State Water Resources Control Board.”

However, the locals have long claimed that Nestle Waters has been operating on a permit that was last evaluated 37 years ago and that was issued in 1978. Apparently, such permits mandate a review or reevaluation every 10 years.

Surprisingly, the Arrowhead bottle water brand, which has been bought and sold by many different companies, has relied extensively on the spring water from the San Bernardino Mountains and other springs around the state for the last 120 years.

Though Nestle Waters is well within its legal rights to draw water, California’s unprecedented drought has pushed the local government for stricter water conservation laws. Many citizens have been forced to let their sprawling lawns die. Meanwhile, excessive groundwater extraction has been partially responsible for the increasing amount of uranium in water supplies.

California’s drought is continually increasing in severity. Such conditions mandate every possible technique to conserve water. The U.S. Forest Service’s review comes under the National Environmental Policy Act. This requires the concerned agencies to assess the environmental effects of proposed actions prior to making decisions, reported Yahoo. As such, if the agencies find that California and its wildlife will benefit from the water that Nestle Waters is drawing, the company’s application for renewal of permit could be in trouble.

[Update] According to CREDO Action, The U.S. Forest service has in some ways put Nestle on notice, informing the company “should the drought continue, as we all expect it will, the State or local authorities may make further demands for conservation measures from all water users.”

[Photo by David McNew/Getty Images]