Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles
Sunday 19 April 2015 11.25 EDT
- Report finds lax oversight, with some operations unlicensed for years
- Petition against Nestlé bottling operations garners 150,000 signatures
Californians facing the prospect of endless drought, mandated cuts in water use and the browning of their summer lawns are mounting a revolt against the bottled water industry, following revelations that Nestlé and other big companies are taking advantage of poor government oversight to deplete mountain streams and watersheds at vast profit.
An online petition urging an immediate end to Nestle’s water bottling operations in the state has gathered more than 150,000 signatures, in the wake of an investigation by the San Bernardino Desert Sun that showed the company is taking water from some of California’s driest areas on permits that expired as long as 27 years ago.
Last month a protest at a Nestlé Waters North America bottling plant in Sacramento, the state capital, forced a one-day closure as protesters brandishing symbolic plastic torches and pitchforks blocked the entrances. The revelations have agencies from the California State Water Resources Control Board to the US Forest Service scrambling to justify a regulatory framework that is poorly policed and imposes almost no requirements on the big water companies to declare how much water they are taking.
Nestlé itself insists its water use is efficient and has minimal impact on the environment – something the activists reject out of hand.
Global Climate Change