That was 1987

Capitalism at its finest. Ian James of the Desert Sun did an investigative report in March:

In a rocky canyon in the San Bernardino National Forest, pipes carry water from springs high on the mountainside down to a roadside tank and from there to tanker trucks which haul it to a bottling plant to be sold as Arrowhead 100% Mountain Spring Water to the profit of Nestle. How sweet and bucolic, except for a few tiny things – there’s a drought; the Forest Service hasn’t been monitoring the environmental impacts, and oh yes Nestle’s permit expired 28 years ago.

Nestle Waters North America holds a longstanding right to use this water from the national forest near San Bernardino. But the U.S. Forest Service hasn’t been keeping an eye on whether the taking of water is harming Strawberry Creek and the wildlife that depends on it. In fact, Nestle’s permit to transport water across the national forest expired in 1988. It hasn’t been reviewed since, and the Forest Service hasn’t examined the ecological effects of drawing tens of millions of gallons each year from the springs.

Even with California deep in drought, the federal agency hasn’t assessed the impacts of the bottled water business on springs and streams in two watersheds that sustain sensitive habitats in the national forest. The lack of oversight is symptomatic of a Forest Service limited by tight budgets and focused on other issues, and of a regulatory system in California that allows the bottled water industry to operate with little independent tracking of the potential toll on the environment.

Well hey, it’s not like they’re using the water to keep their lawns green. It’s drinking water. That’s got to be good, right? Especially in a drought! If Nestle didn’t bottle it it would just go to waste up there.

While the Forest Service has allowed Nestle to keep using an expired permit for nearly three decades, the agency has cracked down on other water users in the national forest. Several years ago, for instance, dozens of cabin owners were required to stop drawing water from a creek when their permits came up for renewal. Nestle has faced no such restrictions.

That’s because…um…Nestle gets the water out to all the people! It’s the invisible hand, dammit, and it’s the best way to everything.

But for real, it’s a long detailed story.


  1. says

    From the sound of it, the water restrictions are mostly going to affect the poor. The rich will be able to pay fines and continue to water their lawns, and agriculture has allotments because: money. It sounds like it’s going to be a great big goatfuck.

  2. says

    @1…but selling bottled water is right up there with watering grass in the category of Stupid Ways To Use Imperiled Aquifers. Your average city tap water is every bit as healthy as anybody’s Mountain Spring Fresh Blue Pure Natural Fine Organic Stream Wet Stuff In A PETE Bottle, and costs about 1% as much per litre.

    But it’s nice* to see that Nestle is just as evil as ever. We’ve been boycotting them for like 35 years over the baby formula thing, and this is just one more reason to continue.

    * In a sarcastic way.

  3. says

    It’s the same story in Taiwan. The stores are full of five litre bottles (albeit local bottlers, not Nestle), while the taps are being turned off a few days per week. It’s hitting the poor the hardest here too.

    We’ve had a smattering of rain twice this week, but not the downpours we need. But at least the levels in the reservoirs has stablized islandwide, no longer decreasing.

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