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Is Nestlé contributing to the problem of water scarcity in California?

Is Nestlé contributing to the problem of water scarcity in California?

Why won’t you stop bottling water in California?

Because people need to drink water. The water we use to make our products is not wasted. It is used efficiently and effectively, and bottled so that it can be drunk as part of a healthy diet. When people are on the move in a place where tap-water is not available, bottled water is a healthy, convenient drink - an alternative to sugary drinks.

How much water do you withdraw in California?

Less than 0.008% of the total. Nearly 50 billion cubic metres (13 trillion gallons) of water is used in California each year. Nestlé uses less than 4 million cubic metres (1 billion gallons) in all its operations. We operate five bottled water plants (out of 108 in the state) and four food plants. Our bottled water plants use around 2.66 million cubic metres (705 million gallons) of water a year.

What is Nestlé’s reaction to Story of Stuff’s claims about your water use?

Nestlé Waters takes water management very seriously and our Natural Resource Managers regularly and consistently monitor our spring sources for long term sustainability. Nestlé Waters' Arrowhead brand has been sourced from springs in Strawberry Canyon for over 100 years. Our continuous operation over that timeframe shows our long track record of sustainably managing water resources in the area.

Nestlé Waters complies with all reporting requirements and continues to report its water use from this spring to the State Water Resources Control Board, which was 25 million gallons in 2014. Nestlé Waters has a senior water right to the Arrowhead Springs that is established under California law. This senior water right has been used continuously since the late 1800s and pre-dates the creation of the San Bernardino National Forest.

But why should your operations continue when people living in the State are being asked to save water?

Closing our operations or reducing the amount of water we withdraw significantly won’t fix the drought. If Nestlé were to shut down all of its plantsin California the resulting annual savings would be less than 0.3% of the total the Governor says the state needs residential and public users to save.

More importantly by producing food and beverages in California we are creating value for California. We employ more than 7,000 people in the state. Our manufacturing facilities and our suppliers in the state are contributing to California’s economy.

So why not reduce the amount of water you use?

We are working on this. Water is a precious resource, not just in a time of drought. We want to build on the progress we have made in recent years to ensure our plants in California are best-in-class for water efficiency within their product categories. Nestlé has long been committed to sustainability. Our long-term success depends upon ensuring our agricultural supply chain, our bottling operations and our manufacturing facilities are sustainable.

So you will try to make your plants more efficient?

Yes. We are always looking for ways to save water in our operations and monitoring their impact on local water sources. Water stewardship is a key pillar of our business. We have made five public commitments on water and you can follow our progress in meeting them in our Nestlé in Society report (pdf 8Mb) published each year.

What specifically will you do in California?

We are in discussions with experts at the World Resources Institute to see how we can further intensify our efforts to save water. We will implement the Alliance for Water Stewardship International Water Stewardship Standard in all our California operations within two years. We will have more to say about this and other initiatives in the weeks ahead. We will work with our suppliers too, ensuring they use water as efficiently as possible.

Does bottling water in drought stricken areas contradict your claim that Nestlé respects the human right to water?

None of our manufacturing facilities or bottling plants, including the ones located in drought stricken areas, interfere with the human right to water.

Has Nestlé Waters North America been operating illegally without a valid permit in the San Bernardino National Forest?

No. We understand that our permit is one of hundreds awaiting renewal by the US Forest Service (USFS). The USFS has repeatedly informed Nestlé Waters North America (NWNA) that we can lawfully continue our operations pending the reissuance of our permit and that the provisions of our existing permit are still in force until the effective date of a new permit. NWNA has continued to receive and pay invoices from the USFS for the annual permit fee, as we have since it was first issued. We also continue to report our water use from the spring to the State Water Resources Control Board.

What is the status of the permit, will it be renewed?

In a letter to Nestlé Waters North America dated 7th April 2015, the US Department of Agriculture, Office of the General Counsel stated that: “In the interim, until the US Forest Service renders a decision on Nestlé’s permit application, the current amended permit remains in full force and effect according to its terms, including those provisions requiring compliance with all relevant State and local laws, regulations and orders.” The US Forest Service is responsible for reissuing the special use permit, which covers the operation of our pipeline.

Does NWNA have a legal right to collect spring water from the San Bernardino National Forest?

Yes. Arrowhead has validly recorded water rights and demonstrated continuous use of those rights since the late 1800’s. In California, “pre-1914” water rights are, by law, valid rights. In fact, these water rights pre-date the creation of the San Bernardino National Forest.

Nestlé has consistently obtained and complied with all United States Forest Service (USFS) special use permits related to its pipeline access to the spring water sources.

How much water are you taking from the National Forest?

In 2014, we used 95 million litres (25 million gallons) of water, which represents less than 10% of measured flow by the US Geological Survey monitoring gauge located at the base of two canyons – Strawberry Canyon where our springs are located, and neighbouring Coldwater Canyon.

Is that negatively affecting the National Forest?

No. To ensure our groundwater use is not more than is naturally sustainable, we only use water that naturally flows to the surface of our Arrowhead spring site in Strawberry Canyon. We regularly monitor the spring water flows and environmental conditions at this site, which show that the forest habitat in this canyon and the neighbouring canyon are healthy and recovering from the devastating wildfires of 2003.

What is your reaction to the lawsuit against the US Forest Service (USFS), which mentions your company?

We are not a party to this lawsuit. However, our permit for the pipeline remains in full force and effect under the federal Administrative Procedure Act. We are working diligently with the USFS on the renewal of the permit. It is in the best interests of all parties to move the process forward. We will continue to abide by all relevant laws and regulations, be it federal, state or local as it relates to our operations.

How much water does the Cabazon bottling plant use?

Our operating agreement with the Morongo Band of Mission Indians which owns the water we use to supply our operation in Cabazon limits what we can report publicly about our operation there.

So how can we be sure that your water withdrawals are not damaging groundwater levels around the facility?

The Tribe and our company share a commitment to ensuring that this ground water supply is sustainably managed for the long-term. We have regular meetings with Tribal water officials and a neutral third-party expert from a Southern Californian regional water agency to discuss local conditions and water conservation efforts.

What are you doing to ensure the long-term viability of the water source at Cabazon?

The Cabazon plant is LEED certified “Silver” and uses equipment and procedures that limit water loss during production, including water recovery for plant use. In 2014, we completed an upgrade at Cabazon that is projected to save 5.3 million litres (1.4 million gallons) of water annually. We consistently monitor groundwater levels at this site, allowing us to identify any potential risks and take prompt action to avoid negative impacts on the local aquifer. We have a system in place at this facility which includes curtailing withdrawals depending on conditions at the spring site. Our monitoring shows that our mitigation efforts have been effective.

Are you paying a fair price for the water you use in Sacramento?

Our Sacramento facility is a customer of the city of Sacramento just like any other metered industrial business or manufacturer and we all pay the same rate for water. We comply with all reporting requirements for our water use in the city of Sacramento, and we voluntarily make public the amount of water we use.

But doesn’t your operation put a burden on Sacramento’s municipal water supply?

No. Nestlé Waters North America uses a fraction of 1% (0.0016%) of total water demand within the city of Sacramento.

But what about those local residents who want you to close the plant?

We welcome open dialogue about our activities in all communities in which we operate, including Sacramento, and are happy to address community questions or concerns. We are strongly committed to responsible water management and fully share concerns about water availability, especially during times of drought.