Nestlé Corporation Vs. America’s Water Supply

With Nestlé CEO Kim Jeffery’s induction into the absurd Beverage World Hall of Fame, a brief study of Nestlé Corporation’s bottled water operations in the U.S. seems necessary.

Nestlé Corporation Vs. America's Water Supply
Conventional wisdom states that if you create a heart-shaped logo for your company, it’s impossible for people to think it’s evil

A recent press release noted that Nestlé CEO Kim Jeffery was inducted into the Beverage World Hall of Fame for building his company into “one of the industry’s leading champions of environmental stewardship.” This despite Nestlé’s near constant effort to tap every last aquifer in America to sell to you at over a 4,000% markup.

Nestlé Corporation is the biggest food and beverage corporation in the world, operating in 86 countries with a workforce of 283,000 people.  It is no Willy Wonka operation, though, because its fingers are in many different pies.  (It should be noted that Nestlé, in fact, owns Willy Wonka Candy Company and marketed the Wonka Bar as a promotional tie-in to Tim Burton’s Roald Dahl adaptation.) 

The Cheerios you eat? Nestlé. Juicy Juice?  Nestlé. Growers Direct Organic Fruit Juices?  Nestlé.  Nestlé bottles and sells water with product names that hit nearly every letter of the alphabet. That elegant Perrier or San Pelligrino water you drink whilst gorging on escargot and a side of truffles — that’s Nestlé, too. The bottled water cooler in the kitchen area down the hall from your cubicle-lined and fluorescent-lit office? It could be any number of Nestlé’s products, like Powwow. The corporation also owns Häagen-Dazs. Nestlé’s greatest contribution to mankind’s health, however, has to be their export of Hot Pockets to the planet’s far-flung countries.

The world is dripping in Nestlé’s foods and beverage like some protoplasmic virus, but that is not enough for Nestlé. What is even more startling than the breadth of their products, is that the invasive tentacles of a multinational corporation like Nestlé is allowed to pump water in high volume from states and municipalities nationwide. That they are allowed to prey on rural communities and use their considerable financial and logistical resources to beat them into submission.

In July of 2010, Nestlé was given the go-ahead to begin pumping water from the Arkansas River to be bottled at a Denver plant and sold under their Arrowhead Springs label. They spent years buying up the land around the river’s spring and finally did enough politicking with the Chaffee Board of Commissioners and the Aurora City Council to get the bottling rights. 

The nearby watershed and wetlands might be negatively effected in the surrounding areas, but that hardly matters to Nestlé, which saw huge dollar signs in the opprotunity to sell water to the dry Rocky Mountain West region. 

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Nestlé Corporation is running into resistance in Cascade Locks, Oregon, where they hoped to tap a spring and siphon off 100 million gallons of water annually. Nestlé claims that municipal water can replace the tapped spring water and not cause harm to a nearby hatchery of endangered fish. 

To that end, Nestlé has built a 1,700 gallon tank to test their theory, and it’s under lock and surveillance because Nestlé believes environmentalists might sabotage the facility. 

In the Mount Shasta region of Northern California (supposed home of the subterranean Lemurians), the residents of McCloud battled Nestlé for six long years over the water rights to their region.  Nestlé negotiated a sweetheart deal with the McCloud Services District in 2003. 

According to Corporate Accountability International, the initial deal gave “Nestlé Waters North America… the town’s water for 50 years…with an option for 50 more.” The 1,300 residents of McCloud only had a few days to review the proposal and were unable to vote. All that Nestlé had to do was convince the five-member McCloud Community Service District board, thus bypassing the will of the people.

Nestlé pressured the board by threatening to take the offer off the table if the contract wasn’t signed quickly. The CAI also noted a revelation that “the Service District board’s legal representation during contract ‘negotiations’ with Nestlé consisted of an attorney paid for by Nestlé.”

McCloud residents later learned that Nestlé would pay 6/100 of the price of a gallon of water, and retail it for about the price of a gallon of gasoline. This, coupled with the other revelations, sent residents into a fury. Citizens formed the McCloud Watershed Council and had an independent analysis of Nestlé’s proposed plan, which proved there would be severe economic and environmental repercussions. 

A court ruling allowed the Service District board to terminate the contract upon a state environmental review, which was the death knell to Nestlé’s assault on McCloud. They eventually withdrew from the village and opened a facility in Sacremento instead.  (More politicians and bureaucrats to massage, you dig?)

In Fryeburg, Maine, Nestlé claimed its ability to grow market share and meet demand superceded the right of control held by the town of Fryeburg. In Mecosta, Michigan, Nestlé did so much damage to the local watershed from excessive tapping, that a judge ordered them to cease pumping. They responded by working out a deal by which they would halve their pumping rate. These are just a few of the well-known examples of Nestle’s actions in the bottled water industry.

The technique Nestlé uses is this: Find an economically weak region, buy up the land surrounding the water source and grease the political wheels by making a proposal the residents can’t possibly refuse. How can depressed regions resist new jobs and added local revenue? But, the revenue generated by these regions natural resource by and large goes to a corporation headquartered in Lake Geneva, Switzerland. And if the financial incentives aren’t enough to assuage concerned citizens, Nestlé’s more than happy to battle it out in court.

In a world with exponential population growth and the need to deliver precious water to humans who so desperately need it, whoever possesses the source of water will possess power. 

Isn’t it about time we stop Nestlé, and other mutli-national corporations like it, from buying up water rights across America and the globe?