A Look At How Nestle Makes Billions Selling You Groundwater In A Bottle

Tyler Durden's picture

A few weeks ago we shared with readers a lawsuit filed in Connecticut against Nestle Waters North America, Inc. alleging that the water they marketed as Poland 'Natural Spring Water' was actually just bottled groundwater...the same water that runs through the taps of many American households. 

Now a new investigation from Bloomberg Businessweek reveals how large water bottling companies choose their plant locations based not on the steady supply of pristine, natural drinking water, as their labels and other marketing campaigns would lead you to believe, but based on which economically depressed municipalities offer up the most tax breaks and have the most lax water laws. 

As an example, even in the drought stricken state of California, Bloomberg notes that Nestle was able to strike a sweetheart 20-year supply agreement with the U.S. Forest Service to pay roughly $0.000001 for the water in each bottle that consumers blindly drop a couple bucks to purchase.

But it illuminates how Nestlé has come to dominate a controversial industry, spring by spring, often going into economically depressed municipalities with the promise of jobs and new infrastructure in exchange for tax breaks and access to a resource that’s scarce for millions. Where Nestlé encounters grass-roots resistance against its industrial-strength guzzling, it deploys lawyers; where it’s welcome, it can push the limits of that hospitality, sometimes with the acquiescence of state and local governments that are too cash-strapped or inept to say no. There are the usual costs of doing business, including transportation, infrastructure, and salaries. But Nestlé pays little for the product it bottles—sometimes a municipal rate and other times just a nominal extraction fee. In Michigan, it’s $200.


Elsewhere, Nestlé has largely prevailed against opposition. In Fryeburg, Maine, it took the company four years to successfully appeal a zoning board resolution to build a facility it said it needed for its Poland Spring line. Last year it gained rights to extract water for the next 20 years—and perhaps 25 more after that. In San Bernardino, Calif., Nestlé has long paid the U.S. Forest Service an annual rate of $524 to extract about 30 million gallons, even during droughts. “Our public agencies have dropped the ball,” says Peter Gleick, co-founder of the Pacific Institute, which focuses on water issues. “Every gallon of water that is taken out of a natural system for bottled water is a gallon of water that doesn’t flow down a stream, that doesn’t support a natural ecosystem,” he says.


Not surprisingly, Nestlé isn’t the only bottled water company playing these games. As Bloomberg notes, Pepsi and Coca-Cola bottle municipal water from Detroit for their Aquafina and Dasani brands, respectively; they pay city rates, then sell the product back for a massive profit.

Of course, even if it is pulled from a 'natural spring', which often times it is not, bottled water isn’t necessarily more safe than tap water despite the fact that you're paying a 1,000,000x markup for the product. In the U.S., municipalities with 2.5 million or more people are required to test their supply dozens of times each day, whereas those with fewer than 50,000 customers must test for certain contaminants 60 times per month. 

Bottled water companies, on the other hand, aren’t required to monitor their reserve or report contamination, even though most will say that they do...you just have to take their word for it.  That said, as we pointed out in the post below, American's are increasingly no longer willing to do that...

* * *

A group of bottled water drinkers has brought a class action lawsuit against Nestle, the company which owns Poland Spring, alleging that the Maine business has long deceived consumers by mislabeling common groundwater. The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday in a Connecticut federal court and accuses Nestle Waters North America Inc. of a “colossal fraud perpetrated against American consumers” the Bangor Daily News reports.

The plaintiffs claim that falsely labeling its "groundwater" product as pure spring water allowed Nestle to sell Poland Spring water at a premium; as a result the consumers who brought the legal action are seeking at least $5 million in monetary damages for a national class and several state subclasses. They requested a jury trial. The civil suit was brought by 11 people from the Northeast who collectively spent thousands of dollars on Poland Spring brand water in recent years. It seeks millions of dollars in damages for a nationwide class and hinges on whether the sources of Poland Spring water meet the Food and Drug Administration’s definition of a spring.

The 325-page lawsuit, which was filed by lawyers from four firms, claims that none of the company’s Maine water sources meets the federal definition for spring water and that the company has “politically compromised” state regulators. Rather than spring water, Nestle Waters is actually purifying and bottling groundwater, some of which comes from sites near waste and garbage dumps, the suit claims. The legal challenge comes as Nestle is looking to expand its operations in Maine.

For instance, the suit claims that the company’s wells in Poland, Maine, have never been scientifically proven to be connected to a spring and draw in surface water, which cannot legally be called spring water. It further alleges that the company has put water from some of these wells through a purification process that disqualifies it as spring water under federal regulations.


The suit makes similar claims about Poland Spring water sources in Hollis, Fryeburg, Denmark, Dallas Plantation, Pierce Pond Township and Kingfield.

Poland Spring has gotten away with this deception for years, the suit claims, by co-opting state regulators and interweaving its interests with those of state government. Since 1998 the company has generated millions of dollars for Maine through licensing agreements, and since 2003 it has had an executive on the governor-appointed body that oversees the state drinking-water regulation enforcement agency, the suit states.

The court complaint further says that the Maine Drinking Water Program scientist who approved many of the company’s spring water permits spent a decade working with this executive at a private engineering firm and that the agency failed to get independent proof of the springs’ existence.

In response to the lawsuit, a Nestle Waters spokesperson said that its water meets all relevant federal and state regulations on the classification and collection of spring water and that the suit is “an obvious attempt to manipulate the legal system for personal gain.”

“The claims made in the lawsuit are without merit. Poland Spring is 100 [percent] spring water.”

This is not the first time that Nestle Waters has faced such allegations. In 2003, it settled a class action lawsuit alleging that Poland Spring water doesn’t come from a spring. In that case, the company did not admit the allegation but agreed to pay about $10 million in discounts to consumers and charity contributions. In other words, pulling a page from Wall Street, it neither admitted, nor denied guilt.

The full lawsuit is below:

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toady's picture

I probably shouldn't say, but these bastards just got approved for millions of gallons near my undisclosed location.

YUNOSELL's picture

Evian spelled backwards is Naive

spastic_colon's picture

jezus if you havent figured out the bottled water scam by now you're either retarded or a demlib douche...........no offense to retards

John Kerry-Heinz's picture

LOVE IT!  Been waiting for a good write up on this scam for over twenty years, today is officially Christmas for me.  I’m rubbing it in to whoever I can; I give you full permission to do so at your leisure!

Pepsi and Coca-Cola bottle municipal water from Detroit for their Aquafina and Dasani brands”



Pinto Currency's picture

What coul d be better than water containing estrogen emulators from the plastic bottles.

land_of_the_few's picture

Well you are paying more than for the tap water they start with, so you need a little extra ......plus, blue plastic, man! That's gotta be adding vitamins!

Creepy_Azz_Crackaah's picture

It's a free market (to some extent). Good for Nestle for selling the stupid people what they want. There is a local company in my area that filters city water and sells it in five gallon bottles at YUGE profits. Good for them as well!

I just use city water run through filters at roughly zero cents per gazillion gallons. I'm still alive (OK, debatable) and cancer free.

Stuck on Zero's picture

The purest tapwater in the world is New York City water. It should be bottled and sold.

Creepy_Azz_Crackaah's picture

A few years ago the San Fran water utility (don't recall the name) head put out an editorial about it. I think SF was getting tired of all of the plastic bottled water bottles filling up the landfill (why they didn't hire the homeless to separate the bottles out for recycling is another matter). Anyway, I believe that he showed/claimed that SF water was cleaner than bottled water, asking people to quit wasting money on bottled water. In many cases it probably is.

ergatz's picture

At least those bottled waters DON'T HAVE the FLUORIDE poison, concocted by puzzled scientists. http://wp.me/p4OZ4v-2M

knukles's picture

This has been open and public for years and years.
And nobody out here has given a shit.
Know why?
"Campaign Contributions"
Everybody's looked the other way
In fact, one article stated that they'd not even bothered with numerous annual filings and fees for eons as well.

Creepy_Azz_Crackaah's picture

Why the URL hider, ergatz? Is it becasue it's a spam post, trying to get people to click through to your biblicism crap?

krispkritter's picture

All of you people are morons.  I buy perfectly safe natural spring water that is dehydrated.  I just open the packets, add water, and vavoom! Pure as the driven snow! 


Richard Chesler's picture

Yeah, and their water doesn't even have electrolytes!

mtl4's picture

At least Pepsi and Coke use reverse osmosis on the water before bottling, nestle leaves all the crap in there for you to enjoy, worst bottled water I've ever tasted bar none!

Creepy_Azz_Crackaah's picture

Just as good as ban Di-hydrogen Monoxide - NOW!!! That deadly substance suffocates tens of thousands of people every year and it is left completely uncontrolled in most places. Yada, yada, yada...

Oh regional Indian's picture

This is good, these assholes from Nestle should be run out of business...

Nestle CEO says Water is not a Basic Human Right...


TBT or not TBT's picture

Also, who gives a shit?    Seriously the care-ometer on this one is pegged to zero.  

Eeyores Enigma's picture

Ice cubes to Eskimos. The ultimate capitalist goal.

Creepy_Azz_Crackaah's picture

Very true.

Many bottled waters do have the ARESNIC poison in them instead.

There are water filters for the home, not too expensive, that filter fluoride out of water.

J S Bach's picture

When the bottled water craze began about 25 years ago, I didn't get it.  Yes, if one is going on a desert hike or lives in Flint, then it's probably a good idea.  But, to pay $2+ for 12 ounces of the most freely accessible element on earth is beyond ludicrous.  And if it's from (gasp) Fiji, then it's triple that amount!  It just goes to show how gullible the human herd is.  They'd drink dog piss if it were advertised as organically "hip".

Creepy_Azz_Crackaah's picture

Yep. It's still confounding to me. People are happy to pay $1 or $2 for a .01 cent quantity of water. Yet they will shriek in horror over a $1 ATM fee, that can be easily avoided, instead wanting complete gubmint control over ATM fees.


philipat's picture

Yes, it's purely a marketing exercise which has been helped along by the usual Government corruption. The double irony, then , is that marketing was developed in the US (as with so much "social progress") and is now being sold back to the US by Switzerland!!

BarkingCat's picture

I lived three years Indiana and after looking at the river that was the city's water supply I did buy bottled water and it fucking was Poland Spring. I basically did not want anything from the Midwest. I saw the farms around there and all the pesticides and fertilizers and I figured that is going right into the groundwater and I sure as hell did not want to drink it. I think this was before Nestle actually bought Poland Spring. Today I would buy one of those fancy filtering machines then use it. Living in Seattle I just use Brita. I just wish you would filter out the freaking fluoride

otschelnik's picture

25 years ago there were water fountains in every shopping mall, airport and train station.  They took them all out and now the merchants make you pay for what you used to be able to get for free.  Meanwhile PET non-biodegradeable bottles are floating in every ocean. 

Déjà view's picture

Public water fountains...chalk it up to liability and attorneys...hep-A and other nasties...

land_of_the_few's picture

Plus people and kids are much more horrible and irresponsible than they used to be,. no discipline, nihilistic wreckers.

3rdWorldTrillionaire's picture

Triple the amount of what... and source?

Stuck on Zero's picture

The whole purpose of fluoridating the tapwater i.e. poisoning the populace is to drive thinking people into buying bottled water. If you don't believe it then show a brand of bottled water that's fluoridated.

BarkingCat's picture

Fucking hell.

I don't normally buy bottled water but sometimes when I am on a long trip I will; mostly to avoid sugary drinks.

I always look for spring water,  making the assumption that it does not have all the crap that drinking water gets from municipal sources.

So much for that theory.

Mr 9x19's picture

in 2025 having water spot will make you more rich than having BTC or AU/AG

3rdWorldTrillionaire's picture

And tank cars or a pipeline that transport water...

Lore's picture

Similar BS going on in Canada:

A Look into Nestle’s Controversial Water Bottling Business in Canada (Vice.com, 30-Sep-2016)

If you resent current practice, let the market speak.  Boycott Nestlé, spread the word (alert others), and get on the ass of your local government.

Norwegianfish's picture

This is not new by the way. Theres a good documentary about it called ''Bottled Life''
Here is the trailer for it, could not find the whole thing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFEfrGPFL1k
Also check out the documentary ''Tapped'' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzntuXdE8dY



a Smudge by any other name's picture

You should try some springs where that water is sourced from.

OTOH I was in Tempe AZ yesterday and sampled some of the tap. And spat it out. OMG it was like drinking chlorinated mud with a bit of toxic gutter wash for a topnote.

land_of_the_few's picture

I have no problem with people making their own filtered water at a good cost, but sometimes the filter salespeople are just a little too keen, we had one visit here, unfortunately for them I managed to read the exact model name from the "test gadget"... basically it's an electrolysis device that precipitates out minerals or adds color itself (one of the electrodes can be iron, so it rusts when there are minerals in the water to conduct electricity).... their own water they bring with them is super-purified and contains no natural minerals or salts, so nothing (especially no rust from the iron electrode!) is precipitated (because no electricity flows) .... making your home's natural mineral water look dirty by comparison!

for example:-



for obvious reasons, most natural bottled mineral water would also "fail" the test, no matter how good it was. It also doesn't test for bacteria .... just minerals! :D

If I was in a big city that had obviously nasty tasting water then I would be tempted to get filters, mostly to get it to taste better. But it seems it is most likely from big artesian wells judging by the amount of minerals in it. I hope. However it seems likely I may be getting kidney stones ... from that or from dairy, I do not know :D

Hilariously, there is also a foot-bath variant of the iron-electrode scam, yes they really are trying to get people to believe all that brown stuff was detoxed out of their feet!




JohnG's picture

The foot bath scam is a very, very old snake oil sales technique.

Jimbeau's picture

Hey, report back when you feel one of those stones!

slwsnowman40's picture

I go and fill up gallon jugs because of the taste of water out of the tap.

It doesn't taste right to me.  My wife, who grew up here, says there's nothing wrong with it.

Déjà view's picture

Drain hot water heater (yearly service)...capture first gallon...preferably in a clear container...should be a good indicator of turbidity...seen murky water with 2 filters at main inlet...which looked like coffee after a month had passed...

Lore's picture

Look up vitamin supplementation, diet and lifestyle change for dissolving and preventing kidney stones. Under normal conditions, nobody needs to get kidney stones. 

3rdWorldTrillionaire's picture

I live in Chicago and refuse to drink the water... talk to me about Fiji, what do you know? I drink 3L / day...

Mtnrunnr's picture

those filters aren't removing the heavy metals and toxins. good luck

BLOTTO's picture

My bottled water tastes funny after a day sitting on the car dash. I like it.
Im baked.

land_of_the_few's picture

I actually kinda like that too, for some reason. But then I also like UHT milk :D

John Kerry-Heinz's picture

Yes, the vitamins.  All the precious vitamins your body needs. 

This week only, we're throwing in the greatest secret vitamin of all.  It was used exclusively in ancient Egypt and found in rare lost books of the Far East.  For limited time, our Nestle Bottled water will include "sea monkeys" which will come in separate special packet attached to the side of the bottle.  Just open the packet, pour the contents into the specially designed bottle, and shake. Wait 5 minutes (we know it is difficult), be sure not to use your mobile phone in the meantime, then drink and enjoy all the delicious goodness all the way down to the bottom.

krispkritter's picture

 "Sea Monkeys" I remember those from the 70's, ads on the back of all my comic books.  Another ripoff!

Lore's picture

Oh, thanks for spoiling it for me. I'm still waiting for mine.