Quantcast
Food

Bottled Water Companies Pay Next to Nothing to Siphon Freshwater From Pristine Lake

Environmentalists in New Zealand are increasingly angered that bottled water companies are extracting and exporting the country's pristine and finite freshwater sources for private profit—and paying very little for this privilege.

As the Guardian reported, Coca-Cola, "which has an annual revenue of over $60bn, last year paid NZ$40,000 to the local council for the right to extract up to 200 cubic meters of water a day" from Blue Spring in Putaruru, which is considered a national treasure.


Additionally, the company Alpine Pure is proposing to take millions of liters of glacial water from Lake Greaney and Lake Minim Mere in the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Mount Aspiring National Park.

Alpine Pure project summary Alpine Pure

Alpine Pure managing director Bruce Nisbet defended the proposal, telling the Guardian that the amount they want to take is "very small."

Also, Environment Minister Nick Smith says that the amount of freshwater being taken is tiny. His office notes that New Zealand's annual freshwater resource is 500 trillion liters, of which 10 trillion liters is extracted. Six trillion goes towards irrigation, two trillion for town water supplies and two trillion for industries.

But many Kiwis are unhappy. Earlier this month, a petition carrying 15,000 signatures was delivered to Parliament calling for a moratorium on bottled water exports. The petition was organized by opposition group Bung the Bore.

"In many parts of our country people are struggling to access clean safe water, yet at the same time billions of liters are being given away to private companies for nothing," Bung the Bore founder Jen Branje told Hawke's Bay Today.

According to the publication, 74 bottling plants in New Zealand have permits to take water and more permits are awaiting approval.

"These bottling companies pay as little as NZ$500 (US$350) to local councils to take billions of liters of this precious resource and consent for this exploitation is often given with no public consultation at all," Branje said.

Bottled water is a big business with more that $100 billion spent each year on bottled water around the globe. In areas of the world where clean water is not readily available and boiling water is inconvenient, bottled water is a definite solution.

However, there are many reasons why you should avoid bottled water if you can, from plastic waste to money waste. Additionally, the bottled water industry is a huge water waster. The International Bottled Water Association reported in 2013 that North American water bottling firms use 1.39 liters to make one liter of water.

Water scarcity is an issue around the world and is certainly becoming a problem in New Zealand, as contamination breaks out in wells and water bodies around the country. As environmental nonprofit Pure Advantage details:

"According to Canterbury District Health Board figures, the region now has the highest rate of campylobacter infections in the world, along with 17,000 notified cases of gastroenteritis a year and up to 34,000 cases of waterborne illness annually.

"It's clear that water quality in New Zealand is deteriorating. Increased algal blooms containing toxic levels of bacteria are polluting our waterways and 75 percent of native freshwater fish species are threatened with extinction."

Catherine Delahunty, the Green party's spokesperson for water, wrote in an editorial that it is unfair for bottled water companies to take the country's water when there is none to spare in areas struck by water contamination.

"Recently, Te Matatini kapa haka festival had to buy bottles of water for people because the drinking water supply was so polluted with e. coli bacteria, it was too dirty to drink," she wrote. "Ironically, the brand they bought was HB Water—bottled locally from an unpolluted source. Why should people have to pay for water because their water has been polluted, when a bottling company down the road can bottle and sell water for free?"

Prime Minister Bill English acknowledged the Bung the Bore petition last week, announcing that the government is asking a panel of experts to explore whether to introduce a charge for water exports.

His statement, however, reflected the government's century-old view that no one owns the water.

"On the one hand, there is real public concern about foreign companies' access to water. On the other hand, there's a long-held, deep-seated view among New Zealanders that no one owns it and it's free, so we'd want to step through any process carefully," English said.

"As we've discussed, New Zealand's long-held position has been, no one owns the water and no one pays for water—they pay for consents, they pay for infrastructure, but water in itself is free, just as it is for our electricity users and businesses who use it," he added.

In response, Delahunty wrote, "We're pleased that the Government is hinting it may look at charging for water, but whether they follow through with a plan that actually protects our water from pollution and extraction remains to be seen."

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
TAFE SA TONSLEY / Flickr

Worldwide Clean Energy Investments Hit $333.5 Billion Last Year

Global investment in renewable energy hit $333.5 billion in 2018, the second-highest on record, according to a new analysis from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

That's a 3 percent jump from 2016 and 7 percent short of the $360 billion record set in 2015.

Keep reading... Show less
Renewable Energy

How Blockchain Could Boost Clean Energy

By Jeremy Deaton

Bitcoin, the much-hyped cryptocurrency, made headlines recently for driving a surge in power use. Around the globe, digital entrepreneurs are 'mining' bitcoins by solving complex math problems, using supercomputers to get the job done. Those supercomputers use a ton of power, which largely comes from coal- and gas-fired power plants spewing gobs of carbon pollution.

But while hackers wreak havoc on the climate, blockchain, the bleeding-edge technology behind bitcoin, could one day help clean up the mess. Climate wonks say blockchain has a role to play in the clean-energy economy, helping homeowners sell electricity, allowing businesses to trade carbon credits, and making it easier for governments to track greenhouse gas emissions.

Keep reading... Show less
Abdallah Issa / Flickr

Post-Fire Landslide Problems Likely to Worsen: What Can Be Done?

By Lee MacDonald

Several weeks after a series of wildfires blackened nearly 500 square miles in Southern California, a large winter storm rolled in from the Pacific. In most places the rainfall was welcomed and did not cause any major flooding from burned or unburned hillslopes.

But in the town of Montecito, a coastal community in Santa Barbara County that lies at the foot of the mountains blackened by the Thomas Fire, a devastating set of sediment-laden flows killed at least 20 people and damaged or destroyed more than 500 homes. In the popular press these flows were termed "mudslides," but with some rocks as large as cars these are more accurately described as hyperconcentrated flows or debris flows, depending on the amount of sediment mixed with the water.

Keep reading... Show less
The most notable observation from the count was DeMartino's sighting of the golden crowned kinglet, but in general volunteers found the same species they normally do. (Photo above is of a golden crowned kinglet, but not the one DeMartino spotted.) Melissa McMasters

Birders Get a First Look at How 2017 California Wildfires Affected Wildlife

By Matt Blois

A neighbor knocked on Rick Burgess's door at about 9:30 p.m. to tell him a fire was coming towards his home in Ventura, California. When he looked outside he saw a column of smoke, and the hills were already starting to turn orange. He loaded up his truck with a collection of native plants he was using to write a countywide plant guide, and barely had enough time to get out.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
A learning garden from Kimbal Musk's nonprofit called Big Green. The Kitchen Community

Elon Musk's Brother Wants to Bring #RealFood to 100,000 Schools Across America

Kimbal Musk's nonprofit organization, The Kitchen Community, is expanding into a new, national nonprofit called Big Green, to build hundreds of outdoor Learning Garden classrooms across America.

Learning Gardens teach children an understanding of food, healthy eating and garden skills through experiential learning and garden-based education that tie into existing school curriculum, such as math, science and literacy.

Keep reading... Show less
Drilling fluids spilled into Ohio wetlands during construction of the Rover Pipeline in April. Sierra Club

Rover Pipeline Spills Another 150,000 Gallons of Drilling Fluid Into Ohio Wetlands

Energy Transfer Partners' troubled $4.2 billion Rover pipeline has spilled nearly 150,000 gallons of drilling fluid into wetlands near the Tuscarawas River in Stark County, Ohio—the same site where it released 2 million gallons in April.

The 713-mile pipeline, which will carry fracked gas across Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Michigan and Canada, is currently under construction by the same Dallas-based company that built the controversial Dakota Access pipeline.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

Large Dams Fail on Climate Change and Indigenous Rights

Brazil has flooded large swaths of the Amazon for hydro dams, despite opposition from Indigenous Peoples, environmentalists and others. The country gets 70 percent of its electricity from hydropower. Brazil's government had plans to expand development, opening half the Amazon basin to hydro. But a surprising announcement could halt that.

Keep reading... Show less
Jim Henderson / Wikimedia Commons

World's Largest Money Manager: Companies Must Respond to Social and Climate Challenges

The world's largest publicly traded companies must take a more active role in solving social issues or face blowback from investors, the CEO of BlackRock said Tuesday.

"To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society," Laurence Fink wrote in his annual letter to CEOs of companies in which BlackRock invests. BlackRock is the world's largest money manager, with more than $6 trillion in assets.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!