California experienced the driest year on record in 2013 and continues to be afflicted by a drought. California’s State Water Resources Control Board even took the steps to announce restrictions on outdoor water use.
But despite the drought, there aren’t any restrictions on the bottled water business of Nestle. The company leases land and water rights from the Morongo Band of Mission Indians. It is considered sovereign land of the Morongo tribe and not subject to state regulations or agencies.
The plant located in Cabazon, California bottles water for both Arrowhead and Nestle Pure Life bottled water. This is in Southern California’s desert, including the Milliard Canyon and its spring.
One of the issues is that it isn’t exactly known how much water is currently being taken out of the ecosystem. According to reports, Nestle Water has stated in 2005 that it had extracted 595 acre-feet of water and that in 2008 it extracted 757-acre feet of water, which is about 244 million gallons of H2O. But there haven’t been any recent updates about the plant’s operation.
“The reason this particular plant is of special concern is precisely because water is so scarce in the basin,” president of the Pacific Institute Peter Gleick said. “If you had the same bottling plant in a water-rich area, then the amount of water bottled and diverted would be a small fraction of the total water available. But this is a desert ecosystem. Surface water in the desert is exceedingly rare and has a much higher environmental value than the same amount of water somewhere else.”
Gleick visited Millard Canyon years ago and saw that the wells for the plant pump water out of the same aquifer as the canyon’s spring. There was also a stream flowing down through the mountains. He does not know how the spring fares now because the Morongo tribe controls access to that area near the San Bernardino Mountains. The extraction of water from the canyon means less water flowing down through the stream and seeping into the groundwater and aquifers there, including desert oases. The concern is that spring stream may already be stressed from the bottling plant and that they and the area will be harmed during the drought.
“Surface water is so rare and the biological communities around these oases are so unique that these kinds of bottling plants in the desert should give us pause,” said Gleick. “If they weren’t pumping, the volume that they’re taking out would be going into either recharging groundwater or providing some surface flows.”
“We proudly conduct our business in an environmentally responsible manner that focuses on water and energy conservation. Our sustainable operations are specifically designed and managed to prevent adverse impacts to local area groundwater resources, particularly in light of California’s drought conditions over the past three years,” Nestle said.
The company has not stated when or if they will allow inspectors from regulating agencies to examine the bottling plant’s impact on the desert and its ecosystem.
Source: Tech Times