A draft order issued by officials in California has effectively prevented Nestle from diverting water from the San Bernardino National Forest. They have been ordered to ‘cease-and-desist’ with immediate effect from bottling and selling huge volumes of water under the Arrowhead brand.
The order needs the approval of the California Water Resources Control Board. The officials have blamed Nestle for illegally overdrawing millions of gallons of water from Strawberry Creek in southern California inside the forest area.
The order comes even as Gavin Newsom, the Governor of California has been forced to declare an emergency caused by drought in several counties. He has also appealed to residents to conserve water whenever possible.
Nestle has limited right to drawing spring water from the creek from 1865. But water officials in California accused the Switzerland headquartered food giant of drawing well over its legal share. An investigation in 2017 had found that Nestle had illegally overdrawn water from the Creek. This Santa Ana tributary provides water to 750,000 residents of the area.
Assistant deputy director Jule Rizzardo of the Division of Water Rights says that with two consecutive years of severe drought, it has become necessary for the authorities to ensure water for its residents and prevent the misuse of the limited resources.
Nestle Steals 25 Times The Permitted Amount Of Water
The Forest Service charges a measly $2,100 as permit but doesn’t charge Nestle for the water. But Nestle diverted 58M gallons of water from the tributary of the Santa Ana River while it held rights to only 203 million gallons, according to an environmental body, The Story of Stuff Project.
They said that nestle was earning billions without paying anything to operate in the area. The company has repeated this pattern in other areas of Northern America. They enter an area rich with resources they desire with promises of jobs for locals and maintaining the highest environment and sustainability standards.
The draft that will require the clearance of the water board of the state was prepared after years of investigation by grassroots campaigners. Amanda Fry has been protesting this illegal pumping by Nestle for years. The activist says that the activities of the company have affected the upper reaches of the Creek, and they continue to inflict damage to the local environment.
She says that a foreign company has been illegally taking out local resources and worsening the availability of water in the region. Other local environmental groups and activists say that while wildfires and droughts worsen the situation every year in California, the activities of Nestle will have an adverse impact on the water situation and affect both the ecosystem and the local communities.
In the changing environmental situation brought about by drastic climate change, the local community should have a say in the usage of water, especially when the western states of the US, including California, is in the grip of a debilitating drought, according to The Story of Stuff Project. The diversion of water to be packed in plastic containers is creating a double crisis of waste generation and water shortage.
Nestle has to appeal against the draft within 20 days and appeal for a hearing. But if the order is signed by the water board of the state, the company may be fined as much as $1,000 for each day from 2017. That could come to around $1 million, a fraction of the amount it has earned over these years.
Rizzardo said that California will use every resource at its disposal to protect its natural resources, including water even as it continues to come up with measures to build up resilience against the never-ending drought.