There’s a Drought in California, So Why is Nestle Still Bottling Water There?

California is currently experiencing one of the worst droughts on record, and Governor Jerry Brown has called for a 20 percent drop in consumption. There was an emergency state rule passed that has cities restricting outdoor water use and even Lady Gaga is behind a new PSA campaign to get Californians to conserve water. However, due to land and water rights, Nestle continues to be able to bottle Californian water.

The Nestle plant, located in Cabazon, California, provides water for both Arrowhead and Nestle Pure Life. The land is part of theMorongo Band of Mission Indians’ reservation, west of Palm Springs. This is a desert country where springs are rare and aquifers are in decline.

“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 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.”

Originally, the spring in Millard Canyon was used for local drinking water. Then the water rights were sold to the Morongo tribe. Nestle leases the land from the tribe, part of a 25-year deal they signed in the early 2000s after the Morongo Tribe got the water rights, and since the land isconsidered sovereign land of the Morongo tribe, it’s not subject to state regulations or agencies. Which means the State of California can’t really do anything about Nestle bottling up those precious drops of water. On top of that, no one really knows how much water Nestle is taking. The Morongo Indians aren’t obligated to report data on groundwater pumping or well levels as they are exempt from oversight by local agencies.

“Arrowhead provides a lot of jobs, and that helps the economy. On the other hand, Arrowhead has a reputation of going into small communities and taking advantage and basically, pump them dry and good to the last drop,” Calvin Louie, the Cabazon Water District’s general manager told USA Today. “Everybody affects the aquifer, the water level, but who’s to blame? Well, you know, when you don’t have the data and when you have no groundwater management, it’s a shot in the dark.”

In fact, as The Desert Sun reports, no one is really sure what’s going on with the stream in Millard Canyon, whose wells Nestle draws its water from. “To what extent the spring may still be flowing isn’t clear because the tribe controls access to that area at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains. But drawing water out of the canyon means less water flowing in the stream and seeping downhill to recharge aquifers.”

While in the short term, it just seems ridiculous to be drawing water and selling it for a profit in a time when the State of California is suffering from a drought, in the long run, if the water runs dry, there will be much worse consequences.

Photo Credit: Wilson Hui


Mary Deforest
Mary Deforest4 years ago

What does this have to do with swimming pools?

Elizabeth Z.
Elizabeth Z4 years ago

Pathetic. Plastic water bottles are the worst! Companies should be fined for producing them and for distributing products using them.

Adena Z.
Adena Z4 years ago

Dead water

Janis K.
Janis K4 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Charlie Rush
Charlene Rush4 years ago

What a perfect example of how money rules.

Maria Teresa Schollhorn

Thanks for the article.

Anne G.
Anne G4 years ago

Don't buy bottled water, filter at home, better for you, better for the environment.

Jane R.
Jane R4 years ago

This should be stopped. People need to drink filtered tap water and put Nestle out of bottled water business. Buy a water filter pitcher and you'll save money. A lot of bottled water is nothing more than filtered city water. Read the labels. If you buy bottled water be sure it says "Spring Water" otherwise you're paying for nothing more than filtered tap water.

Tammy D.
Tammy D4 years ago

Crazy to me that corporations are allowed to suck up as much water as they want, turn around and sell it for a tidy bundle, then exit the community as soon as they suck it dry. BC, Canada is stupid for not changing its laws. All these places are stupid. Short-sighted idiot politicians telling citizens that making a quick buck is better than protecting the most valuable resource in our existence. Disgusting.

The desalination argument here is interesting. Palm trees are fantastic desalinators, even better than those big desalination plants that cost a fortune and don't actually work that well.... Of course, the best we can do is stop buying bottled water, vote for intelligent people, petition the governments and conserve water at home. Pee on your yard, and and tell Nestle to piss off!

Car Town
Car Town4 years ago

Anne M. Yes you can. Especially tomatoes when using a combo solution.
"Italian researchers reporting in the Journal of the American Chemical Society say that when tomato plants are watered with a 12% saltwater solution, they produce sweeter, tastier fruit that's also higher in vitamins A and C."
Even diluting hundreds of thousands of gallons of H2O with ocean for watering crops would help. Conservation goes a long way. Google 'Ocean water in the garden.'