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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Solutions for the Drought Get Weirder While Nestlé Keeps Bottling California Water

Posted By on Wed, Apr 8, 2015 at 2:00 PM

click to enlarge SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
Solutions for California’s drought are starting to sound like folk remedies for a hangover. From swearing off almonds to building cross-country pipelines meant to strip mine the rivers of Alaska’s hinterlands to the commodification and sale of “virtual water,” everyone’s got an idea and they’re going to push it hard, no matter how many eyebrows arch out of skepticism.

Some people are getting pretty shameless about promoting their own interests at the same time. Ratter caught the chairman of the California Pool and Spa Association encouraging people to conserve by tearing out their lawns and installing a nice ornamental swimming pool instead.

However, there is one particularly egregious abuse of California’s labyrinthine system of water rights and access that can easily be corrected: corporations earning billions by bottling the state’s supply.

Writing in Salon, David Dayen noted that Nestlé is milking the pre-1914 “senior water rights” by partnering with the Morongo Band of Cahuila Mission Indians. An estimated 200-250 million gallons every year may go to the food conglomerate’s Arrowhead or Pure Life brands, and while this represents approximately 0.05 percent of the 500 billion gallons that Gov. Jerry Brown is looking to save, this is but one of at least a dozen facilities Nestlé maintains in the state. They’re earning $4 billion while the rest of us are asked not to hose dog poop off the sidewalk, and they’re able to get away with it only by exploiting a legal loophole meant to keep a tribe on its arid ancestral homeland.

Moreover, conservation should be thought of less as a personal virtue (in Dick Cheney’s formulation) and more of an impetus to reform the entire system. As Dayen writes, “If the governor can’t stop even a relatively small player like Nestlé from monetizing the same water every Californian must conserve, he loses the moral authority to do virtually anything else.”

To that end, a MoveOn petition ordering Nestlé to stop has garnered some 26,000 signatures. Granted, MoveOn petitions arguably hold the same influence on corporate boardrooms as UN resolutions sponsored by Paraguay do, but an increasingly desperate state government may yet take notice. Until then, we’re all left hoping for one last winter storm while we pee in the shower.

[Via Ratter; Salon]
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About The Author

Peter Lawrence Kane

Peter Lawrence Kane is SF Weekly's Arts Editor. He has lived in San Francisco since 2008 and is two-thirds the way toward his goal of visiting all 59 national parks.

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