California Says Nestlé Has Been Bottling and Selling Water It is Not Allowed to Use

(Image Credit: Raúl Hernández González / Flickr/ Creative Commons)

Officials in California claim Nestlé has been bottling and selling water that it does not have a legal right to use.

Since 2015, officials with the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) have received complains that Nestlé was using water from the San Bernardino National Forest to which the company had no right to claim and then selling the water under the company’s Arrowhead brand.

Nestlé cited a 150-year-old claim by a man named David Noble Smith whose property later became the site of the Arrowhead Springs Hotel. Because in California, water rights are given based on who got there first.

The company points to the business’ commitment to “sourcing water exclusively from carefully selected mountain springs,” which “ensures that every drop of water is revered by Native Americans for its healing powers.”

“Westerners have savoured the natural goodness of Arrowhead water since bottling began in the 1890s,” the company explains on their website.

However, last week the board declared that the company holds no legal right to that water it is draining from the Strawberry Canyon watershed. The committee said the company’s argument to use that water was “not valid for Nestlé’s current appropriative diversion and use of water from the San Bernardino National Forest.”

“A significant portion of the water currently diverted by Nestlé appears to be diverted without a valid basis of right,” the report said.

The board argues that Nestlé has a right to about 26 acre-feet a year, which results in approximately 8.5 million gallons. But, the company averaged around 192 acre-feet a year or nearly 62 million gallons.

The board’s report is not enforceable order. Instead, the board released a series of recommendations for Nestlé in a letter to the business, including the company “cease any unauthorized diversions,” submit a compliance plan and obtain a permit for claiming more water beyond their allowance.

In a statement, Nestlé said “We look forward to cooperating with the SWRCB during the review process and to providing the necessary documents to supplement the SWRCB’s report, including producing information requested from over a century ago, to the extent that it is available,” the statement said.

It is important to point out California’s law does not prohibit a company from bottling the state’s water.