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Nestlé Plans to Bottle Water From Drought-Stricken Phoenix

Climate

Nestlé is planning to open a bottled water plant in Phoenix. Yes, drought-stricken Phoenix, Arizona.

Arizona's capital, in the midst of an epic drought, could be home to Nestlé's newest water bottling plant.

According to the Associated Press, Nestlé Waters will treat the city's tap water and bottle it under its Pure Life brand. The plan is to extract about 35 million gallons of water in its first year to produce 264 million half-liter bottles.

The city's water services department insists there's enough water to spare, even though Arizona is in the midst of a historic drought. As Bloomberg writes:

Phoenix produced about 95 billion gallons of water in 2015. It gets more than half from Arizona's Salt and Verde rivers, and a little less than that from a Colorado River diversion, some of which is piped into storage aquifers for emergency use. About 2 percent is groundwater. The Nestlé plant would use about 35 million gallons (or 264 million half-liter bottles) when it opens in the spring, or about 0.037 percent of the volume that comes out of the city's plants and wells. So with that kind of math, and all the demand for bottled water among thirsty Phoenicians, it looks like there's plenty to go around—even enough for Nestlé to pour out of the tap, bottle and sell for a few bucks.

Unsurprisingly, many people are wondering why it is necessary to bottle water in the middle of a desert when Arizonans can just drink it from the tap.

"Arizona is in drought conditions and with more people moving here each day it is imperative that we do everything we can to conserve water," a Change.org petition signed by nearly 45,000 people states. "Even on the City of Phoenix website, we are reminded that the future of our city water supply is uncertain."

A Facebook group has also been formed to protest the proposed plant.

"This plant approval further reveals the breathtaking duplicity of city managers as they attempt to force residents to implement water conservation measures," wrote Dr. Anton G. Camarota, an Arizona resident and a member of the Facebook group.

"The managers state that 'by watering your lawn wisely, you can conserve a precious resource and save money on your water bill,' and 'it is important to conserve water as a lifestyle. It's everyone's job to think about water … every time you use it … and use it responsibly.' At the same time that they promulgate these platitudes, they are selling water to a private company for profit. The managers fail to see that water is not merely a lifestyle choice, in the deserts of Arizona it is the difference between life and death."

Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the U.S., provides water to Arizona, California, Nevada and Mexico. In May, water levels shrunk to 37 percent fullthe lowest it has ever been. Water levels could dip even further as climate change unfolds, triggering mandatory restrictions. Federal water managers warned that they might have to temporarily reduce Arizona's allotment in 2018.

Sucking up the city's precious resource is not the only concern. Americans are now drinking water from these single-use plastic items more than soda, potentially creating mounds of plastic waste if the bottles are not properly recycled.

Bloomberg reported that Nestlé's chose to build a plant in Phoenix to cut down transportation costs of moving water into the region. Other factors included water quantity, water quality, regulatory burdens, local concerns and Nestlé's corporate perspective, according to Nelson Switzer, chief sustainability officer of Nestlé Waters.

"We want to be where people want us," Switzer said. Gauging a community's welcome (or lack thereof) is a part of the process. "If all of those things together make sense, then we can site," he continued. The plant is expected to create between 40 to 50 jobs.

The company said water scarcity is a real concern, and "in areas where population growth is threatening to exceed available water supplies, the concern is heightened."

If Nestlé builds the plant, Phoenix will be home to four bottle plants, including Pepsi Bottling Co., Niagara Bottling and DS Services of America.

Nestlé is also facing opposition over bottling plants from communities in San Bernardino, California, Hood River County, Oregon and Eldred Township, Pennsylvania.

Last month, college-bound student Hannah Rousey of Lovell, Maine turned down a $1,000 scholarship money from Nestlé subsidiary Poland Spring‬ due to her objections to bottled water and the company's environmentally destructive practices.

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