BY: TYLER FYFE
If you found yourself walking though the pines of San Bernardino National Forest, you would also find yourself stumbling upon metal scaffolding and a 4-inch stainless steel pipe. The pipe stretches from Strawberry Creek to a Nestlé bottling factory in Ontario, California. And Everyday 68,000 gallons of freshwater leave the creek forever.
This is why the The Story of Stuff Project, the Courage Campaign Institute, and the Center for Biological Diversity are suing the U.S. Forest Service for allowing Nestlé to draw water from public lands for private profit.
Roughly 28 million gallons of water were siphoned from the natural water table in 2014 to be injected into Arrowhead plastic water bottles, a Nestlé-owned operation. The cost of buying a 24-pack (12 litres) of Arrowhead 100% Mountain Spring Water at your local Target? $3.99. The annual cost for Nestlé to pull 28 million gallons from Strawberry Creek? $524.00. According to the Centre for Biological Diversity, that is less than the average Californian’s water bill.
Worse yet, in response to the drought the U.S. Forest Service told cabin owners in Barton Flats that they could no longer use the Barton Creek as a water source. This forced average residents to spend thousands of dollars installing water tanks while Nestlé continued to siphon without restraint.
According to official lawsuit documents, Nestlé has been conducting operations and escaping mandatory assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act for over two decades. A permit issued in 1978 that allowed miles of pipes to tap the mountainside like large steel straws actually expired in 1998.
Eddie Kurtz, executive director of the Courage Campaign Institute says “Nestlé’s actions aren’t just morally bankrupt, they are illegal.The U.S. Forest Service has been enabling Nestlé’s illegal bottling in the San Bernardino National Forest for 27 years, and it has to stop. Our government won’t stand up to them, so we’re taking matters into our own hands.”
As urban sprawl in Southern California spreads, wet areas of life-sustaining vegetation are increasingly becoming isolated pockets among sun-baked desert. If these areas are further stressed by corporate disturbance, wildlife will die.
When asked if he planned on decreasing water extraction in California in response to the severity of the drought, Nestlé Waters North America CEO Tim Brown said “Absolutely not. If I could increase it I would. We feel good about what we are doing.”