America’s largest water bottler, Nestlé, is stealing water from the city of Sacramento and selling it back to the public at a huge profit. While there’s been a crackdown on watering lawns and washing cars due to the crippling, record-breaking drought in California, which has only one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, Nestlé continues its bottling operations unhindered by measures meant to constrain the general public.
To protest this blatant stealing of the precious resource, environmentalists and human rights activists formed human barricades at both entrances to the Nestlé Waters bottling plant in Sacramento on March 20, shutting down the company’s operations for the day.
Members of the Crunch-Nestlé Alliance claimed that the company could drain up to 80 million gallons of water a year from Sacramento aquifers, given the green light by the Sacramento City Hall. “This corporate welfare giveaway is an outrage and warrants a major investigation. For more than five months we have requested data on Nestlé water use. City Hall has not complied with our request, or given any indication that it will. Sacramentans deserve to know how their money is being spent and what they’re getting for it. In this case, they’re getting ripped off,” Coalition spokesperson Andy Conn said.
In October, the coalition released a “White Paper” highlighting predatory water profiteering actions undertaken by the Nestlé Water Bottling Company in various cities, counties, states and countries. Most of those great deals yielded mega profits for Nestlé at the expense of citizens and taxpayers. Additionally, the environmental impact on many of those areas yielded disastrous results.
The city of Sacramento gets paid approximately $186 per 250,000 gallons of water. It works out to approximately $2.1 million off-the-shelf. Nestlé re-bottled the water as Arrowhead Water and Pure Life, its two main brands. The profit from restricting public water use, so that corporations get more of it to bottle? It is approximately 10,000 percent for Nestlé, at the City of Sacramento’s expense.
A recent investigation in the Desert Sun found that Nestlé Waters North America has been pumping water from the San Bernardino National Forest with no oversight by the US Forestry Services. Nestlé’s official permit to extract water from the stream to their bottling plant had expired in 1988. Between 1988 and 2015, tens of millions of gallons of water have been drawn from this stream and sold under the Arrowhead 100 percent Mountain Spring Water label.
In 2014, Nestlé said that it had used 50 million gallons from the Sacramento Municipal Water Supply, a fraction of a one percent of the total water demand within the city of Sacramento. “It takes about 1.1 gallons of water to make one-gallon of bottled water, a fraction of what is used to make soft drinks or beer,” Tim Brown, President and CEO of Nestlé Waters North America had said, insisting that three-quarters of the water bottled by the company in California stayed in the state and that Californians consumed bottled water about 30 percent more than the average American.
The company at the 2000 World Water Forum in the Netherlands declared that water should be defined as a need—not as a human right. On March 24, 2015, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, chairman of Nestlé declared: “Water is a human right. I fully agree with that. Around 30 litres a day, needed for basic living, should be provided without charge to those who can’t afford it. But that amount only accounts for around 1.5 percent of the fresh water destroyed daily. I don’t think it’s a human right to fill up a swimming pool. I don’t think it’s a human right to wash cars. I don’t think it’s a human right to water a golf course”.
Ironically, the chairman told CNBC that the world will run out of fresh water long before it runs out of oil, with the potential for major deficits by 2030. “We have a major water management crisis. We are destroying 20 percent more water for human consumption than there is available,” he added. But if the company is so concerned, why is Nestlé then shipping bottled water out of the parched state at a 10,000% profit?