Every year Nestlé pumps in excess of half a billion litres of water from Strawberry Creek, which it has done since the 1930s regardless of drought conditions or impacts to endangered species.
Nestlé claims that it holds Water Rights to Strawberry Creek stemming from its corporate predecessors in the late 1800s, but the reality is not so simple. Pumping water on public land requires a special use permit granted by the Forest Service. Nestlé did have one, but it expired in 1988.
The Story of Stuff Project and Courage Campaign sued The Forest Service in 2015 for having spent nearly 30 years avoiding the permit review process. While the Forest Service cited capacity issues and lack of funding, there are many more reasons.
The lawsuit forced an environmental review of the impacts that the Nestlé operation is having on the Strawberry Creek watershed. While Nestlé claims on its website that there is a bubbling spring flowing naturally to the surface, inspection of the well location at Strawberry Creek showed no such spring. What it did show was a stainless steel pipe spray-painted with a white arrowhead symbol stretching out of the locked well entrance, pumping the water directly into Nestlé’s trucks, to be transported to a nearby bottling facility.
In the small town of Twin Peaks, the Save Our Forest Association and the League of Women Voters hosted a public meeting to discuss Nestlé’s seemingly unquenchable thirst for California’s water with the local community. Nestlé was invited to participate in the meeting and to defend their stance, but failed to attend.
Public pressure from the Story of Stuff Community and loyal followers has prompted the review of Forest Service’s permit proposal and an environmental impact study is being done as a part of the National Environmental Policy Act, under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s jurisdiction.
The Story of Stuff and the Courage Campaign have also assembled a legal team to investigate Nestlé’s claimed right to take public water.
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