Fresh off the news that Governor Jerry Brown’s first water restrictions might curtail shower use, Californians are questioning why, exactly, Nestlé is still pumping out their most precious commodity. A MoveOn petition demanding that the company “stop bottling water from California immediately” has now collected 26,000 signatures, while another group of protesters recently shut down a Sacramento plant by picketing out front with torches and pitchforks.
The total amount of water Nestlé uses statewide is unknown, but a Salon story reports that one of the dozen plants it operates “in severely dry regions” is among the nation’s largest. Rubbing salt in the wound, Nestlé then sells that water back to residents for a huge profit as Nestlé Pure Life, Arrowhead, and other brands. (It made $4 billion from bottled water in 2013.)
Nestlé has responded by saying that it “adheres to all drought restrictions,” but this leaves out a nifty trick the company has been utilizing: pumping water out of Native American territories, lands that are exempt from local water restrictions. As the Desert Sun discovered, a Nestlé plant on the Morongo Reservation cranks out somewhere north of 1 billion bottles a year — though the tribe doesn’t release statistics on how much actual spring water Nestlé uses. However much it is, residents surely feel justified in wanting the nozzle tightened. “The fact that they’ve turned exporting groundwater during a drought into a moneymaking enterprise,” the Salon story notes, “is absurd.”