Nestlé Caught Stealing Billions of Gallons of Water from California—No One Arrested

By Jay Syrmopoulos

Nestlé has been taking more than 60 million gallons of water per year from the San Bernardino National Forest, according to California regulators, which amounts to billions of gallons of water stolen over the past 68 years — without any valid basis of right to the water.

A two-year investigation by the California State Water Resources Control Board revealed that Nestlé, which sells water under the Arrowhead brand, lacked the proper permits for the vast majority of the water taken.

The State Water Resources Control Board notified Nestlé last week that the investigation had concluded, and that the company doesn’t have proper rights to roughly three-quarters of the water it withdraws for bottling.

“Nestlé appears to be taking more water than they likely have the right to take,” David Rose, an attorney for the water board’s enforcement section, told KPCC.

The investigation showed that Nestlé extracted roughly 62.6 million gallons of water from the San Bernardino spring each year on average from 1947 to 2015, but that the company only had the right to siphon some 8.5 million gallons yearly.

Essentially, Nestlé has been stealing nearly 55 million gallons of water each year from California for nearly 70 years.

Of course when a corporation does something illicit, like stealing billions of gallons of water over the course of 68 years in an extremely drought-stricken state, no one is held responsible – no one is arrested – and regulators simply recommend that they apply for a new permit. They were simply told that they must conform to California water diversion regulations while providing a timetable for the company to implement required actions.

Conversely, if an individual, without the cover of being a corporate entity, would engage in similar actions, they would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law – and would almost certainly be sentenced to jail or prison time.

According to a report from NPR:

Water from the headwaters of Strawberry Creek in the San Bernardino National Forest has been bottled since the late 1800s — and Nestle had told California regulators that the claim to the water by the original owner of the Arrowhead Springs Hotel had extended through the years to the Swiss multinational.

Water Board officials did not agree, saying that while the hotel’s use was riparian — taking place at the water’s origin — Nestle couldn’t convert that to an “appropriative use.”

California’s State Water Board recently sent Nestle a letter summarizing its report. As for what the company must do now, the board issued a string of recommendations, giving Nestle 60 days to submit a compliance plan and 90 days to submit an investigation and monitoring plan.

The investigation into Nestlé’s water use practices in the San Bernardino National Forest began with a 2015 report in the Desert Sun newspaper.

The stunning report noted that the international mega-company lacked the requisite water rights to the water it was collecting and selling, and also called into question the environmental impact of such large-scale water diversion.

“They’re taking way too much water. That water’s hugely important,” said Steve Loe, a biologist who retired from the Forest Service in 2007, told the Desert Sun. “Without water, you don’t have wildlife, you don’t have vegetation.”

“When you take water from the springs that are the source of those waters, you dry up these canyons,” Loe said. “And they’re the most important habitats that we have.”

Nestlé claims to monitor the spring sites to ensure they don’t have a detrimental environmental impact on the surrounding habitat, and the Water Board’s report was not conclusive as to those points.

However, Nestlé was not able to satisfactorily clarify for State Water Board investigators a valid basis of right for the massive water diversion seen in the San Bernardino National Forest.

“While Nestlé may be able to claim a valid basis of right to some water in Strawberry Canyon,” the Water Board noted in the report, “a significant portion of the water currently diverted by Nestlé appears to be diverted without a valid basis of right.”

In a letter to the company, the water board told Nestlé to cut back on its water withdrawals unless it can prove it actually does have the right to use that water, or to additional groundwater.

Nestlé reportedly said it was too soon to say what impact, if any, the letter would have on Arrowhead bottled water. A Nestlé spokeswoman said she was pleased that the report reaffirms Nestlé holds valid rights to “a significant amount’ of water,” according to KPCC.

“We will continue to operate lawfully according to these existing rights and will comply fully with California law,” the Nestlé spokeswoman added in a statement to KPCC.

The U.S. Forest Service was sued by environmental and public interest groups in 2015 who alleged that Nestlé was operating its Strawberry Canyon pipeline on a permit that expired in 1988.

Subsequently, the court ruled that Nestlé could continue to withdraw water while the application for a permit renewal was pending.

The board left open the possibility that Nestlé could make a valid claim to extract more water from the forest land if the evidence warranted.

And there you have it.

Mega-corporations are so far above the law that even when they intentionally fleece the public, none of the decision makers are held accountable for the illicit conduct.

How does it make sense that a corporation can take billions of gallons of water from public lands illicitly and sell it back to the public for profit – and not a single person is held accountable? Coincidentally, in many places in the U.S. the public risks being arrested and locked in a cage for an act as simple as possessing a medicinal plant containing THC. And we still call this place the land of the free.

Where two creeks meet in the San Bernardino National Forest, one is flowing and the other is just a trickle.

Jay Syrmopoulos is a geopolitical analyst, freethinker, and ardent opponent of authoritarianism. He is currently a graduate student at the University of Denver pursuing a masters in Global Affairs and holds a BA in International Relations. Jay’s writing has been featured on both mainstream and independent media – and has been viewed tens of millions of times. You can follow him on Twitter @SirMetropolis and on Facebook at SirMetropolis. This article first appeared at The Free Thought Project.

Also Read: Nestlé CEO Denies That Water is an Essential Human Right

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14 Comments on "Nestlé Caught Stealing Billions of Gallons of Water from California—No One Arrested"

  1. people buy that bottled water here in Arizona, where the nascent water supply is laced with old mining residues, rocket fuel, various other content you would never wish to drink, along with estrogens, pharmaceuticals, and other more recent human contributions. Oh, haven’t mentioned fluoride. So yeah, I’ll continue buying bottled water until I can get out of here, but that too is tricky, having done spot checks of water content around the country.

  2. As long as they are not giving it to the homeless. Now that would be a crime!

  3. Bankrupt them.

  4. There’s more of a roadblock to Californians purchasing ammunition than Nestlé pilfering water.

  5. “….in many places in the U.S. the public risks being arrested and locked in a cage for an act as simple as possessing a medicinal plant containing THC….”

  6. It’s because the governments are corporations too… joined at the unhip!
    It’s absolutely disgusting! Criminal!
    & this is why the people hate corporations & government now. If we stopped paying for their products & boycotted like the public have done with the NFL & started class actions you watch how quickly they would change. It’s the publics fault for being too stupid, cowardly & complicit as well.

  7. This overdraw pales in comparison to the water wasted on cattle livestock.
    Each galllon of water Nestle uses goes for water to drink with no waste.

    On the other hand, a Big Mac uses 1600 cups of water to produce a product that not only is not necessary (soy has as much nutrition and uses 90% less water to produce as a primary food) but bad for our health.

    If I were Big Cattle, I would be playing up the Nestle’s story to divert attention from the criminal waste of our precious water to produce carcinogenic meat.

    • There is no wasted water. It falls from the sky. It’s used one way or another and is then recycled. Over and over and over…..

      I think the article is complaining about the way Nestle is taking the water improperly for profit while the downstream would-be users of that water seem to be suffering.

      • People are suffering due to dwindling fresh water supplies. The same water that could grow food to feed 9 people when used for meat only feeds one.

        “Hundreds of millions of people around the world depend on the use of underground rock formations known as aquifers to get the clean water they need. But a pair of new studies show many of the largest aquifers are being depleted at alarming rates.

        As seen on this map, of the 37 largest ones in the world, 21 are losing more water than is being replaced, with those areas in orange and red showing much more serious problems with depletion. These are located in countries like China, Russia and Australia, as well as India, where water resources are already a major problem.

        The reports also identify declining levels for California’s Central Valley Aquifer.” Judy Woodruff/

        From the perspective of having fresh drinking water and enough to grow food so people don’t starve, the waste in meat production is very huge and very real.

  8. on top of all that the Swiss multinational took over Garden Of Life, one of the main USA suppliers of ORGANIC supplements, probiotics and nutrition..

    • They were a bit overpriced and Nestle may not change the formulations because it could mean profit loss. This could be a sign that TPTB can’t resist the trend towards proper nutrition.

  9. The bribe taking polititions from Maine to California who allow this theft belong at the end of a rope.

  10. One solution seems simple enough: Stop buying Arrowhead brand bottled water. Make them feel it in their wallets. There are plenty of other brands; just read the label to make sure they are not another subsidiary of Nestle’ or Arrowhead.

  11. People MUST stop buying all products from Nestle and their subsidiaries. A full boycott. This is NOT the only trouble they are in. This company doesn’t give a rats behind about people. In fact, they are actually behind many deaths in third world countries. Deaths of people who were opponents to their horrific acts. They disappeared! Some were beaten to death. Just like Proctor & Gamble. They think they can get away with anything. Single use products should have been banned a long time ago. Plastics are destroying our planet. There isn’t a place on the planet that isn’t contaminated by plastic. It is in all the sea salt, it is in the Mariana Trench inside fish and other sea life. It is all over beaches in parts of the world that never see humans at all. Yet, one of the most pristine islands on the planet called, Henderson Island, part of the Pitcairn islands is covered in it. Plastic from all over the world. No one is left out. Plastic from bottled water, cosmetics, shampoo, food, you name it. There is no excuse and Nestle is just another one of those evil companies that don’t care. See the story here: Did you know that the top six drinks companies in the world use a combined average of just 6.6% of recycled Pet plastic in their bottles? Coke who churns out 100 BILLION bottles a year, Yes 100 BILLION throw away plastic bottles, says they want their plastic to be pretty and clear. So they don’t use much recycled plastic And they aren’t planning on changing. Nor are any of the other major soda brands. Learn about this and how plastics are destroying our environment and all inhabitants, including us.
    They [bottlers] know people are still dumb enough to keep buying this garbage. It is appalling, how so many can be so selfish to continue purchasing single use plastics and any product made by Nestle, Proctor & Gamble, and SO MANY OTHERS that are just as bad. There isn’t any excuse to continue buying water or anything in this manner. None. The people of California are in such a bad drought that they cannot do much of anything when it comes to water anymore. Shower heads can only be a max of 2 gallons per minute, long showers can get you fined. And yes, they did check to ensure you have the proper fixtures in your home. That also includes toilets and other faucets. It is bad, really bad. The places that are in the worst drought areas have bans on new swimming pools and spas. You can’t get one because it cannot be filled or topped off. Nestle is all about money. They lied on the Arrowhead website! The company’s materials tout its history in California and its
    commitment to “sourcing water exclusively from carefully selected
    mountain springs,” which “ensures that every drop is as crystal clear as
    the water revered by Native Americans for its healing powers”.” Good grief. No brand of bottled water should be purchased. There isn’t any reason for it. The affects of purchasing is far greater than you think. You can purchase a water filter in your home that will remove 99% of all contaminants. That is far better than any bottled water, that is typically just tap water that has been ran through a filter and bottled. There isn’t anything special about it. Except that it is killing everything. I have tested bottled water with my in home filter and it doesn’t compare. The water from my filter is cleaner than all the bottled varieties I tested. As a chemist I tackled it because I wanted to show my friends and family that no one should buy water in this manner. One type of water to run from is reverse osmosis. Did you know that to get one gallon of reverse osmosis water 5-gallons are wasted? It is true. Shame on the horrible companies in this world. It is sickening.

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