Nestle, which makes Arrowhead bottled water, may have to stop taking millions of gallons of water from Southern California’s San Bernardino National Forest because state regulators say it lacks valid permits.
The State Water Resources Control Board notified the company on Wednesday that an investigation concluded it doesn’t have proper rights to about a quarter of the water it currently withdraws for bottling.
That works out to about 8.5 million gallons out of about 32 million gallons a year that Nestle Waters North America removes from the forest.
Nestle says it’s reviewing the report. The company has argued it inherited forest water rights dating back more than a century.
In a statement to KESQ News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2, spokesperson Alix Dunn said, “Nestle has not been ordered to stop collecting water. In fact, SWRCB confirmed that Nestle has valid pre-1914 water rights and is permitted to continue to use these senior-most water rights. The SWRCB has requested information on additional water rights that Nestle will be working with the SWRCB to clarify.”
This comes after an investigation stemming from a number of water rights complaints against Nestle that started back in 2015.
During that year, the US Forest Service was sued by three different advocacy groups for allegedly allowing Nestle to drain the San Bernardino National Forest for 27 years.
Environmental groups have challenged the water use, arguing it’s improper and threatens local wildlife.
Read the full investigation here.
According to the lawsuit filed against the US Forest Service, Nestle has been removing water from these wells without a permit since 1988. It was revealed that Nestle paid the government about $520 a year to collect around 35 million gallons of public every year.
The Nestle spokesperson tells KESQ News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2, “Surface water at the springs flows naturally and is collected using gravity, not a pump. Water is collected, never “pumped” from these springs… Our four-inch, stainless steel pipeline transports water collected from the springs to a roadside collection station located on private land and is then transported via tanker trucks and to NWNA’s bottling facilities, usually our plant about 30 miles away in Ontario.”
However, in 2016, a U.S. District Judge ruled that in favor of Nestle to continue collecting water in San Bernardino National Forest.
On Thursday, the state’s Division of Water Rights issued a number of recommendations if Nestle wishes to continue its current operations at the San Bernardino National Forest, which includes applying for a water right permit.
Over the period from 1947 to 2015, Nestle reported extractions from the springs in the San Bernardino National Forest averaged 62.6 million gallons per year.
Noticias en español: Telemundo 15
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