Decision in San Bernardino: A Turning Point.
September 21, 2016
This morning, a federal judge in southern California denied our request to turn off the spigot on Nestlé’s water bottling operation in the San Bernardino National Forest, ruling for the U.S. Forest Service in a lawsuit we filed last October. The court’s decision flies in the face of common sense, protecting Nestle’s operation while ignoring the public’s right to have a voice in how our shared resources are managed.
In the 28 years since its permit expired, Nestlé has removed more than 1 billion gallons of water from these public lands with little to no oversight by the Forest Service, the government agency charged with preserving this shared resource for generations to come. That would be bad enough, but with California suffering through a historic, multi-year drought, it’s downright criminal.
In fact, recent measurements show Strawberry Creek — whose plant and animal life is forced to compete with a multi-billion dollar corporation for water — at its driest in hundreds of years. If you need a reminder of why we filed this lawsuit in the first place, have a look at the movie we released last fall about this fight.
Along with our partners and co-plaintiffs Courage Campaign and Center for Biological Diversity, we’re reviewing our legal options. But while Nestlé may have won this battle, the fight is far from over.
Under pressure from the Story of Stuff Project and our partners, the Forest Service announced earlier this year that it had finally begun the process of reviewing Nestlé’s application for a new five-year permit. While we continue to believe Nestlé’s removal of water should stop in the meantime, we will do everything in our power to deny Nestlé the new permit they seek.
Second, the California State Water Resources Control Board is investigating Nestlé’s claimed right to the water in the National Forest and, importantly, whether the company is removing groundwater or spring water, a critical distinction that determines who “owns” the water in our increasingly dry state. We’re also investigating other avenues for challenging Nestlé’s claim to the water.
And finally, we’ll be ramping up efforts in the court of public opinion to push Nestlé and its Arrowhead brand to do the right thing. Nestlé is an $88 billion company, and the largest water bottler in the world. But creative maneuvering by the Story of Stuff Project and our Community has shown that even Nestlé is susceptible to influence when people flex their citizen muscles in unison.
Earlier this year, Cascade Locks, Oregon showed us what’s possible when citizens there passed an ordinance to prevent groundwater from being bottled and shipped out of their county, torpedoing Nestlé proposal to bottle water in the breathtaking Columbia River Gorge.
Soon, we’ll be sharing plans to expand this success to communities around the world, providing changemakers with the resources and support they need to keep the pressure up on corporations –together we’ll stop them from putting water, our most precious shared resource, into plastic bottles. Instead of bottling our future, let’s work on winning investments in public water.
This decision marks a turning point. It marks the point where our Community says, “Enough!” to the privatization of our water. We need every single one of you to step up.
Here’s what you can do today: