California — A California federal judge just gave Nestlé the go ahead to continue stealing water from the San Bernardino National Forest.
Nestlé has become infamous for trying to privatize water from over 50 springs throughout the United States, though residents in the small towns they monopolize have tried fighting back.
In a recent turn for the worse, a federal judge in California just gave the corporation permission to continue drawing water from the San Bernardino National Forest despite holding a permit that expired in 1988.
Activists were hopeful, that on at least one accession, they could stop Nestlé from taking water from drought-stricken California. The Courage Campaign Institute (CCI), the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), and the Story of Stuff Project (SSP) launched a lawsuit in 2015 against the U.S. Forest Service for allowing Nestlé to keep drawing water.
Nestlé has fought similar lawsuits in other areas over their habit of taking water. In some cases, states have tried to take down the mega-corporation by accusing them of false advertising. The company bottles water from some sources that are not spring water, but only a municipal supply, then charges unsuspecting customers for the same water they could get out of their taps.
In this case, a large stainless steel pipeline takes the forest’s water in an environmentally fragile canyon to a holding tank, where it is bottled under the Arrowhead brand, a subsidiary of Nestlé. CCI and CBD maintained in court documents that Nestlé needed an actual permit, not just the application for a permit in order to keep siphoning off water.
In 2015 alone, the corporation withdrew 36 million gallons of water from Strawberry Creek in the National Forest, paying $524 annually for a permit, which National Forest Service officials say is in force, though the permit expired in 1988.
With the new judgment, Nestlé has been given carte blanche to continue pilfering water by the National Forest Service — an institution that is supposed to protect forests, never mind humanity’s right to potable water.
Michael O’Heaney, executive director of The Story of Stuff, says the license should be considered legally invalid as it has expired, and attests that Nestle is operating with little or no scrutiny.
These groups were hopeful that the federal courts would finally put Nestlé out on their ear, but Nestlé maintains that they have the right to continue withdrawing water because, “The Arrowhead brand has been bottled here for 121 years, based on the most senior water rights under Californian law. These date back before the creation of the San Bernardino National Forest (SBNF). Our current, valid permit with the USFS only relates to a right-of-way that allows our water pipeline to cross forest land.”
The company also suggests that the Forest Service has no authority over their right to extract water from the San Bernardino Forest, and that the “State Water Resources Control Board is exclusively authorized to regulate the state’s surface water.”
Though the company makes billions off of selling a natural resource back to people in plastic bottles that currently choke our oceans, they maintain that they only take 10 percent of the flow at Strawberry Canyon, where their pipeline is located.
Other works by Christina Sarich, Underground reporter