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U.S. Allows Nestlé to Keep Piping Water From Drought-Ridden Southern California

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utt73 / Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The U.S. Forest Service offered Nestlé a three-year permit on Wednesday to keep taking millions of gallons of water from the San Bernardino National Forest in California, the Associated Press reported.

The offer has certain restrictions. Nestlé, which sells bottled water under the Arrowhead brand, can continue piping from the Strawberry Creek watershed "when there is water available consistent with the forest's Land Management Plan," according to the AP, citing the Forest Service offer. The watershed is currently rated as "impaired."


California has suffered from years of recurring drought. Last year's record-breaking rains in the state's north brought some relief, but large swaths of the south—where the forest is located—remain in "severe" drought, according to the latest data from the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Nestlé has 60 days to decide whether to accept the terms of the offer.

The Swiss food and beverage giant has been criticized by environmentalists for depriving the region's plants and animals of water. Additonally, the company had only paid an annual $524 permit fee to siphon off as much as 162 million gallons of water a year from Strawberry Creek and sell it back to the public in plastic bottles. Furthermore, that permit expired in 1988.

In 2015, the Forest Service was sued by environmental and public interest groups, who accused Nestlé of being allowed to operate its Strawberry Creek pipeline on a permit that expired 30 years ago.

The case was settled earlier this month, and required the agency to decide in 30 days whether or not to issue a new permit for the water pipeline and the company's associated activities in the San Bernardino National Forest.

Nestlé spokeswoman Alix Dunn told the AP the company provided 70 environmental studies during the application process and will "carefully review" the Forest Service offer.

"Californians are passionate about water and so are we," she added. "We take our responsibility as a California water steward seriously and Arrowhead's successful operations for more than a century point to our commitment to long-term sustainability."

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