Nestle Waters North America – the bottler of Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water (one of my absolute favorites bottled waters; yes, I am a water snob!) – is in a bit of trouble over their water extraction operation in the San Bernardino National Forest. It appears that during California’s current environmentalist caused drought catastrophe, Nestle has been pumping out water under permits that may have expired as far back as 1988.
Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water, which takes its name from a natural rock formation in the San Bernardino Mountains that’s shaped like a giant arrowhead, is a brand of drinking water that is sold primarily in the western United States, including California, Arizona, and the Pacific Northwest. The company was acquired by Nestlé in 1987 – a year before the oldest permit expired.
The Desert Sun broke the story on March 8th, 2015. From the Desert Sun:
Miles from the nearest paved road in the San Bernardino National Forest, two sounds fill a rocky canyon: a babbling stream and the hissing of water flowing through a stainless steel pipe.
From wells that tap into springs high on the mountainside, water gushes down through the pipe to a roadside tank. From there, it is transferred to tanker trucks, hauled to a bottling plant and sold as Arrowhead 100% Mountain Spring Water.
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.
The San Jose Mercury News expanded on the Desert Sun investigation on April 12, 2015. From their article:
The U.S. Forest Service is investigating an expired permit that Nestle has been using to draw water out of a national forest in Southern California for its bottled water business.
An investigation by the Desert Sun found that Nestle Waters North America’s permit to transport water across the San Bernardino National Forest expired in 1988. The water is piped across the national forest and loaded on trucks to a plant where it is bottled as Arrowhead 100 percent Mountain Spring Water.
“Since this issue was raised and I became aware of how long that permit has been expired, I have made it a priority to work on this reissuance project,” San Bernardino National Forest Supervisor Jody Noiron told the newspaper.
Jane Lazgin, a spokesman for Nestle Water, has said that the company will work with federal officials during the permit renewal process, which will require an environmental review – which can take between 18 months to more than two years to complete.
According to the Desert Sun, the the bottled water industry accounts for a “small fraction of overall water use.” The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated that roughly 1 percent of the water used in the state goes to industrial users, with bottling plants being a small portion of that. Pumping from wells can pull down groundwater levels, and drawing water from springs can reduce the amounts flowing in streams.
You can read the original Desert Sun article HERE.
You can read the San Jose Mercury News article HERE.
You can find out more about Arrowhead Water from their website HERE.