A Blog by Jonathan Low


Apr 10, 2015

Should Nestle Sell Bottled Water from Springs in Drought Stricken California?

Nothing is simple when it comes to determining whose rights supersede who's.

Nestle and other enterprises have signed contracts permitted them to extract ground water from springs in California, and then bottle that water for sale. Lots of people buy bottled water, so what's the problem?

Well, California's historic drought, for one. Governor Jerry Brown has signed an executive order mandating water conservation measures. The question is to what degree corporations should have to comply. Nestle and others say they have a contractual right that to buy an asset from private sources and re-sell it. They assert that right is superior to any government writ.

But corporations have been insisting that they are people, in a legal sense, which means they have the same rights and obligations as people. The institutions involved are, needless to say, a tad less enthusiastic about the obligations than they are about the rights. But that may prove less persuasive than the damage being done to corporate reputation by the unfiltered (as it were) assertion of those rights.

Water is going to be a great business since the world is running out of it and scarce resources generate higher profits. It's just that getting from here to there may not be that simple, water being essential to human life and all that. JL

Olivia Smith reports in ABC News:

Nestle is taking water, bottling it and reselling it to people in California during a drought. Nestlé confirmed it does have more than 10 natural springs across the state from which it takes groundwater.
The California-based nonprofit Courage Campaign started an online petition about two weeks ago, demanding Nestlé stop “bottling the scarce resource straight from the heart of California’s drought and selling it for profit.”
Organizers say the petition now has about 135,000 signatures at a time when California Gov. Jerry Brown has ordered mandatory water conservation measures.
“Our number one goal is to stop misuses of water in California,” said Eddie Kurtz, the executive director of Courage Campaign. “This corporation is taking water, bottling it and reselling it to people in California during a drought.”
U.S. Nestlé Waters, an arm of the Swiss multinational company, operates 29 bottled-water facilities across the United States and Canada, according to the company’s website.
Ontario, Canada on Jan. 16, 2015.
Courage Campaign says, “Nestlé -- who extracts water from CA for its Arrowhead and Pure Life brands -- is bottling from at least a dozen natural springs throughout California, including from some of the most drought-stricken areas of the state.”
Jane Lazgin, director of corporate communications at Nestlé Waters North America, confirmed to ABC News that Nestlé does have more than 10 natural springs across the state from which it takes groundwater.
Nestlé takes water from these springs on land it either owns, leases or has a deal with, she explained.
Tim Moran, the public information officer for the State Water Resources Control Board, said, “All water belongs to people of the state, but if [Nestlé is] drawing groundwater, that is unregulated” and, therefore, perfectly legal.
Moran says there was recent legislation that calls for local and regional authorities to come up with a groundwater management plan, but one does not exist right now.
And Nestlé isn’t the only company that sells groundwater in the state. Pure Flo, located in the foothills of San Diego, says it takes water from the ground, bottles it and sells it to residents.
As for Nestlé, Moran said, “If an industry has a legitimate right to water, we wouldn’t oppose that.”
Kurtz says the issue goes far beyond this one industry, and Nestlé agrees.
“We’re not excluding ourselves from this,” company spokeswoman Lazgin said, “but it needs to be a collaborative approach rather than us being singled out.”
Lazgin says Nestlé uses less than 1 percent of available water in the state. When asked about how much money the company makes off its bottled waters in California, Lazgin said Nestlé does not disclose its profits.
“We [should] look forward into managing water in the most efficient way possible,” Lazgin said


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