Bottled Water Companies vs. California's Epic Drought
As the drought in California rolls into its fourth year, causing mandatory water cutbacks by cities and private citizens and concern about the state's enormous agricultural sector, bottled water plants in the state are attracting increasing attention and controversy. Bottled water accounts for a tiny fraction of the water consumed in the state but it's become something of a symbol of who gets access to water for profit and who is being forced to cut back.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Last week, Starbucks announced that it would be moving the production of its "globally responsible" Ethos Water brand from California to Pennsylvania within the next six months. Its Pennsylvania facility already bottles the water sold on the east coast.
Starbucks' senior vice president of global responsibility and public policy John Kelly said, "We are committed to our mission to be a globally responsible company and to support the people of the state of California as they face this unprecedented drought. The decision to move our Ethos water sourcing from California and reduce our in-store water reductions by more than 25 percent are steps we are taking in partnership with state and local governments to accelerate water conservation."
Ethos Water was founded in 2002 in Southern California, promising to donate a percentage of each sale to water projects in developing countries, currently amounting to five cents on the sale of each $1.95 bottle of water. The company was bought by Starbucks in 2005. Ethos has created partnerships with organizations such as the Oscars. Environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio was seen carrying a bottle at the awards ceremony, and fellow environmentalist Matt Damon has appeared in an ad for the brand.
The move follows a recent article in Mother Jones calling attention to the fact that its West Coast bottling plant is located in Merced, California, drawing its water from private springs in Baxter a few hours north of Merced, as well as from Merced city water. Both Baxter and Merced are in areas of "exceptional drought."
"While bottled water accounts for just a small fraction of California's total water use, some residents are nonetheless fed up with bottling plants that profit off their dwindling water supply," said Mother Jones. "Protesters have begun staging events at Nestlé's bottling facility in nearby Sacramento."
Nestlé's facility buys millions of gallons of Sacramento municipal water and also bottles spring water shipped in from Northern California counties. A grassroots group called the Crunch Nestlé Alliance has been organizing to shut down the plant.
Residents in Merced are also concerned about the Safeway-Lucerne Foods bottling plant in the city that's pulling groundwater from local wells as they're being asked to cut back on showers and stop watering their lawns.
The Merced Sun-Star quoted area resident Jandrea-Marie Gabrielle saying at a city council meeting, "Perhaps watering lawns are the least of California’s worries. You might think that in the midst of a drought emergency, diverting public fresh water supplies to bottle and selling them would be frowned upon."
And while Starbucks is closing its bottled water facility, another will soon be opening in the arid state. The Crystal Geyser Water Company will be opening a plant in Mount Shasta that will take hundreds of thousands of gallons of water a day from an aquifer that feeds the Sacramento River and provides drinking water for millions of people. The converted Coca-Cola plant is expected to begin operations this fall. While a company executive said it's working with area residents to make sure its activities "will not impact the environment in any detrimental way,” local citizen Raven Stevens pointed out, "Crystal Geyser in one day plans to pump more water than any three of my neighbors will use in an entire year."
California currently has no limits on the amount of groundwater that can be pumped from private property, although state regulations on water withdrawal from the most endangered aquifers with start phasing in after 2020—when the drought could be a decade old. Bottled water companies using water tapped on private property are exempt from the mandatory water cuts placed on cities and towns in March.
“Bottling water is a legal use of water under the law,” said Nancy Vogel, spokeswoman of the California Department of Water Resources.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
By James O'Hare
There are 20 million people in the world facing famine in South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen. In developed nations, too, people go hungry. Venezuela, for instance, is enduring food insecurity on a national level as a result of economic crisis and political corruption. In the U.S., the land of supposed excess, 12.7 percent of households were food insecure in 2015, meaning they didn't know where their next meal would come from.
Artists are taking the climate crisis into frame and the results are emotional, beautiful and stirring.
So you've seen the best climate change cartoons and shared them with your friends. You've showed your family the infographics on climate change and health, infographics on how the grid works and infographics about clean, renewable energy. You've even forwarded these official National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration graphs that explain the 10 clear indicators of climate change to your colleagues at the office.
As the Trump administration moves full speed ahead on boosting the oil and fossil fuel industry, opposition to increased pipeline construction is cropping up in different communities around the country.
By Simon Evans
Last Saturday, two dead whales washed up on the coast of Suffolk, in eastern England, and a third was spotted floating at sea.
What happened next illustrates how news can spread and evolve into misinformation, when reported by journalists rushing to publish before confirming basic facts or sourcing their own quotes.
By Monica Amarelo and Paul Pestano
Sun safety is a crucial part of any outdoor activity for kids, and sunscreen can help protect children's skin from harmful ultraviolet rays. Kids often get sunburned when they're outside unprotected for longer than expected. Parents need to plan ahead and keep sun protection handy in their cars or bags.
By Joe McCarthy
A lot of people take part in community clean-up efforts—spending a Saturday morning picking up litter in a park, mowing an overgrown field or painting a fence.
A coalition of conservation groups and others announced Thursday that a historic number of comments and petitions of support have been submitted to the U.S. Department of the Interior in support of Bears Ears National Monument. Despite the entirely inadequate 15-day comment period ending on May 26, more than 685,000 comments in support of Bears Ears National Monument have been collected.