A small Michigan township is making a stand against Nestle, temporarily blocking the company from pumping millions of gallons of groundwater for bottled water. Citizens near Evart, Michigan became outraged when Nestlé proposed to build even larger pipelines to increase the flow of water to its plant in Standwood. Global News CA details the local resistance to Nestlé’s proposed expansion to collect even more ground water:
The added capacity provided by the proposed booster pump would make it possible for Nestlé to extract an estimated 1,500 litres of groundwater per minute, representing more than 4.2 million bottles of water in a 24-hour period. That’s equal to 794 million litres of water annually.
As explained by Global News CA, “the company is currently limited to pumping 945 litres per minute, up significantly from its pre-2015 cap of 565 litres per minute.”
Nelson Switzer, Nestlé Waters’ chief sustainability officer told the Stamford Advocate, “just because we’re putting in the application for 400 [gallons] doesn’t mean it’s going to run at 400 gallons per minute most of the time. Switzer added, “the fact is we want to make sure that we don’t spike Evart beyond our permitted capacity. So having that capacity permitted is important.”
In the video below, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation protested last Wednesday outside the Reed City courthouse against Nestlé. Residents of the area have had enough of the multinational corporation extracting the towns resources for less than pennies on the dollar. One of the protestors had a sign that read, “Nestlé destroys our planet one bottle at a time.” One report claims that waters near the Nestlé-owned pump can no longer support fish species.
A much larger issue that no-one seems to be addressing: how does a multinational corporation have virtually free access to the state’s water supply, while citizens in Flint, Michigan face undrinkable lead water? The state’s prioritization seems to be misaligned when it comes to its own taxpayers (especially when the adversary is one of the world's wealthiest multinationals).
In September, Bloomberg estimated Nestlé’s 20-year supply agreement with California’s U.S. Forest Service pays roughly $0.000001 for the water in each bottle: a sweetheart deal considering bottled water has become the most consumed bottled beverage in North America in 2017. Last year alone, Nestlé sales of bottled water reached $7.4 billion, meanwhile the company paid very little to municipalities.
Surprisingly, Nestlé isn’t the only bottled water company to "suck" America dry. As we noted, 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. Across the United States, fresh water aquifers are plentiful and it could explain why multinational companies are eager to start bottling.
Meanwhile, the Economic Times reports that only 12% of 1.35 billion citizens in China have access to freshwater. Similar problems around the world exist, making access to clean water difficult to come by, and prompting Goldman to publish a report several years ago declaring fresh water as the best long-term investment over the next decade.
But back to Nestle, Global News provides a summary of the latest development in legal municipal battles against the Swiss good giant:
Guelph, Ont., has been in a legal battle with Nestlé for years over the amount of groundwater the company is legally allowed to pull from the local aquifer.
The city and local activist groups have claimed the 3.6 million litres of water Nestlé Canada is allowed to pump per day from its well in Aberfoyle, Ont., under its provincial licence is unsustainable. Activists had claimed the company had increased pumping in recent years, including during a recent summer drought. The company pays just $3.71 per million litres pumped under provincial regulations.
The Ontario government formally imposed a two-year moratorium on new or expanded bottled water companies as of Jan. 1, 2017 after thousands of people expressed support for the ban. The B.C. government instituted new bottling administration fees in 2015 after public criticism over Nestlé’s ability to draw water from the province’s waterways at no cost.
The company can now take approximately 230 million litres of fresh water every year from an aquifer in the Fraser Valley. They pay $2.25 for every million litres. Oregon’s governor attempted to block a water transfer deal last month that would jeopardize Nestlé’s plan to build a $50-million bottling plant in Cascade Locks, east of Portland.
The deal would allow Nestlé to receive 850 litres of water per minute from a local spring.
The latest bottled water scandal comes just a few months after Poland Spring was accused of "collosale fraud" in Maine, after plaintiffs sued the Swiss megacorp for selling groundwater pretending it was "pure spring water."
Poland Spring is owned by Nestle.
If this latest news is any indication, a trend is forming whereby US and Canadian municipalities are starting to fight back against large multinational companies who are attempting to suck America dry of fresh (ground)water. Whether this will send the price of bottled water even higher remains to be seen.