Nestlé may bring smiles to the faces of children across America through cookies and chocolate milk. But when it comes to water, the company starts to look a little less wholesome. Amid California’s historically grim drought, Nestlé is sucking up an undisclosed amount of precious groundwater from a desert area near Palm Springs and carting it off in plastic bottles for its Arrowhead and Pure Life brands.
The Desert Sun reports that because Nestlé’s water plant in Millard Canyon, Calif., is located on the Morongo Band of Mission Indians’ reservation, the company is exempt from reporting things like how much groundwater it’s pumping, or the water levels in its wells.
From The Desert Sun:
The plant … has been drawing water from wells alongside a spring in Millard Canyon for more than a decade. But as California’s drought deepens, some people in the area question how much water the plant is bottling and whether it’s right to sell water for profit in a desert region where springs are rare and underground aquifers have been declining.
“The reason this particular plant is of special concern is precisely because water is so scarce in the basin,” Peter Gleick, who wrote the book on bottled water, told The Desert Sun. “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.”
Nestlé refused to let The Desert Sun in on any of its data, but defended itself via email: “We proudly conduct our business in an environmentally responsible manner that focuses on water and energy conservation,” the company said. “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.”
Well, we all know that bottled water is widely known to be environmentally responsible and sustainable. Oh, wait, did I just say that? Nestlé, you got some ‘splainin’ to do!