The lack of regulation here is stunning. The U.S. Forest Service in Southern California just caught wind of the fact Nestlé's permit to pump water out of a national forest expired over 25 years ago.
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.
Nestlé is the #1 bottle water producer in the country and own the brands Arrowhead and Pure Life. The company's response? Don't worry, folks. Nestlé "monitors its water use and the environment around the springs where water is drawn."
The California drought has gotten so bad we've been warned there is only a one-year supply left in the reservoirs. In Sacramento, Nestlé has recently been under fire from environmental activists, calling the company's unregulated tapping of California aquifers a "corporate giveaway":
“The coalition is protesting Nestlé’s virtually unlimited use of water – up to 80 million gallons a year drawn from local aquifers – while Sacramentans (like other Californians) who use a mere 7 to 10 percent of total water used in the State of California, have had severe restrictions and limitations forced upon them,” according to the coalition.
“Nestlé pays only 65 cents for each 470 gallons it pumps out of the ground – the same rate as an average residential water user. But the company can turn the area’s water around, and sell it back to Sacramento at mammoth profits,” the coalition said.
In Southern California near Coachella Valley, Nestlé also has a bottling plant inside the Morongo Reservation
In 2013, the most recent year for which Morongo submitted reports, nearly 600 acre-feet of groundwater was tapped in the area, which translates to about 200 million gallons a year, the Desert Sun reports. That's enough water to supply the needs of around 400 homes in the Coachella Valley.
What is the U.S. Forest Service back in San Bernadino poised to do now that they know Nestlé has been bottling water with an expired permit for 27 years
The Forest Service faces a backlog of expired permits. In recent years, it focused on high-priority projects including permits for power lines, pipelines and a new water supply tunnel for the Metropolitan Water District, Southern California's water wholesaler that serves more than two dozen cities and agencies.
[San Bernardino National Forest Supervisor] Noiron said Nestle's expired permit is now a higher priority.
"Now that it has been brought to my attention that the Nestle permit has been expired for so long, on top of the drought . it has gone to the top of the pile in terms of a program of work for our folks to work on," Noiron said.