Our operations and data are not transparent to the public.
Our permit compliance information is accessible to the public via our Annual Reports, which are mandated by the terms of the permit and can be accessed by anyone on the public notice section of Chaffee County’s website. These reports provide comprehensive monitoring details of water levels, riparian and wildlife habitat monitoring, contributions to the County, taxes and utilities paid, and other information directly related to the conditions of our permit.
We tried to avoid a public hearing in their attempt to secure a 10-year permit extension in 2019.
This is inaccurate. Our 1041 permit was up for a ten-year extension in September 2019, and we have been ready to participate in a public hearing since it was originally scheduled last October. We maintained an open dialogue with the residents and officials of Chaffee County about our operations and community contributions over the past ten years. For a variety of reasons, however, the County postponed the public hearing on our permit several times – from October 2019 to January 2020 to April 2020 to October 2020.
In March, when the COVID-19 pandemic reached Colorado, it was clear that a public meeting would be more complicated to conduct. While we asked that the public hearing be conducted virtually, since the technology exists to do so, we respect the decision of the County Staff and Commissioners to again postpone the public hearing on our permit renewal to October 20, 2020. By the time our hearing date arrives on October 20, we will have had a public notice period of nearly 300 days, significantly longer than the required 30 days’ notice period. Throughout that time, we have met with a variety of stakeholders to answer questions, offer support, and provide tours of our spring site.
We are making last-minute efforts to meet the conservation easement requirement of the permit.
Our actions taken to meet the conservation easement requirement are not “last-minute efforts.” Over the last ten years, we have consulted with many land trusts and organizations that hold other conservation easements, and in 2018 we ultimately determined that the Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) would be the most appropriate partner for us. As a part of the conservation easement process by the State of Colorado, we adjusted our property boundaries to be one contiguous piece of land. That lot line adjustment request was approved by the County Commissioners in April of 2019, enabling us to formally apply for a conservation easement. The application was submitted to CPW in January 2020.
The application is now in the hands of CPW’s real estate team that has reviewed it and in due course will vote to accept the donation. Once that happens, the last step is final approval by the Capital Development Committee of the Colorado General Assembly.
We will deplete Colorado's waterways.
Spring water is a renewable resource when managed responsibly. We have made a long-term investment in Colorado, and we take great care to operate responsibly and sustainably to help preserve and protect water resources and the land around our springs for generations to come.
The water we withdraw is naturally replenished through the water cycle. Selecting and managing spring water sources is a thorough and meticulous process guided by a dedicated team of engineers, geologists, and hydrogeologists who carefully monitor a variety of environmental elements including habitat assessments, water levels, water flows, and water withdrawal. This work helps ensure that those sources can provide high-quality spring water at a quantity that is within permit limits and meets our needs, without any adverse impact to the surrounding watershed or the needs of other users in the area.
In Chaffee County, our Ruby Mountain Springs property is monitored at 72 individual hydrogeologic and environmental checkpoints, and the data is reported to the County and State, in accordance with our 1041 Permit. That data can also be found in our Annual Reports, which currently reside on the County website here. Water withdrawals are rigorously regulated and overseen by Chaffee County and the State Engineer’s Office to be protective of the springs and other water users.
In the case of our production at Ruby Mountain Springs, any reduction of spring flow to the Arkansas River Basin which provides water essential to recreational users, fisheries, farmers, cities, and all other residential and commercial water users must be made up by augmenting or replacing an equal amount of water to the river at a location upstream of NWNA’s withdrawal. The county permit requires the water we withdraw to be augmented at a location upriver from our wells with non-Arkansas River water.
The Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District operates NWNA’s water augmentation plan, replacing our withdrawals with Colorado River Basin water released from Twin Lakes, Turquoise or Clear Creek Reservoirs. Those releases are timed to ensure that they meet the state requirements for time, place, quantity and quality. As such, even though we withdraw water from the aquifer north of Ruby Mountain, augmentation water from the West Slope ensures that the Arkansas River does not lose any water as a result of our operations.
Lastly, all uses of water in Colorado are administered by the Colorado Division of Water Resources pursuant to the terms of a decree from the Division 2 Water Court. Regardless of demand or any other circumstances, the amount of water we use will always remain within the level of the water use permit, which is based on water monitoring data that is independently reviewed, verified, and approved by County staff.
We give very little back to communities where it operates.
This is inaccurate. The support we provide to Chaffee County is clearly outlined in detail in all of our Annual Reports that are available through the County.
Since 2010, our $500,000 donation to establish two $250,000 Science Education Endowments for the Buena Vista Community Education Assistance Fund and Save Our Schools Salida has directly distributed more than $270,000 to support student scholarships, teacher grants, classroom supplies, and other needed equipment to the Buena Vista and Salida school districts. Alongside those distributions, the principal of each endowment fund has continued to grow reaching nearly $600,000 in 2020.
In addition to the endowment, over the course of our 10 years in Chaffee County, we have contributed to a variety of other school initiatives, including $20,000 to fund a new interactive Science Curriculum for Salida Middle School 5th to 8th grades and funding a recycling program for Buena Vista High School, including a dumpster and dump trailer built by industrial arts students.
We have provided ongoing financial support and/or water donations to more than 25 local organizations and events throughout the years. To date, in 2020 alone, we have supported Trout Unlimited, Boys & Girls Club, Arkansas River Water Basin Forum, Chaffee County Economic Development Corporation, Friends of Browns Canyon, Quilts of Valor, the Chaffee County Community Foundation, and more. Most recently, we contributed $15,000 to the Chaffee County Community Foundation’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund (ERF), to support local citizens who have suffered financial hardship due to the Coronavirus. We also provided $10,000 to fully fund a Waste Audit Study in Chaffee County through the Greater Arkansas River Nature Authority/Chaffee Green which will provide much-needed data about the local waste stream. Results will help inform a broader strategic plan to help improve recycling rates in the County.
Our philanthropy has been consistent and will remain so, as we are proud to be a community partner in Chaffee County.
We failed to meet the local jobs requirement in the permit.
Since 2010, we have worked closely with Coleman, our transport partner, to meet the permit’s requirement to hire at least 50 percent of our drivers from Chaffee County, and we have successfully met this requirement in eight of the past ten years. Despite generous compensation packages from Coleman, which include extra bonuses and other incentives, and a massive uptick in advertising for the job openings, we were unable to attract enough local drivers to meet the 50 percent requirement in 2018 and 2019 (we fell short by 2-3%). In these instances we immediately let the County Staff know and remained committed to maintaining our advertising and local hiring efforts. In 2020, we are hopeful to once again reach the goal of maintaining a workforce of 50 percent local truck drivers.
Truck traffic will increase or double upon extension of the permit.
Truck traffic will not change with an extension of our permit. The extension simply allows current operations to continue as they have been for another ten years.
During our original public hearing in 2009, we commissioned two traffic impact studies which demonstrated figures related to truck traffic and emissions associated with beginning our operations in Colorado. Both studies showed impact to be negligible. Additionally, a traffic-flow Corridor Analysis was conducted which showed that the performance of Trout Creek Pass with the additional trucks would not be affected by more than 1 percent. Even so, we agreed to limit our truck trips during peak traffic times in the summer months when tourism to Chaffee County is significant to the local economy.
We have complied with this permit provision since beginning operations ten years ago. The Chaffee County permits allow no more than 25 trucks per day to transport water to the Denver bottling plant via U.S. Highway 285. Generally, fewer than 10 truck trips are made per day, but this number fluctuates depending upon seasonal consumer demand.
We do not pay its fair share for water.
We pay to care for and access water at Ruby Mountain Springs.
Since we do not own a senior water right for our wells, we purchase augmentation water to replace the water that we use. We have obtained augmentation (replacement) water by leasing water unused by the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, headquartered in Salida. Those rates are similar to those paid by other industrial water users in the county. We also pay property taxes on the land we own at Ruby Mountain Springs.
Also, in 2011, we paid more than $1 million to restore the land around the Ruby Mountain Springs site – previously a dilapidated fish hatchery – to its natural habitat. This massive restoration project was conducted in partnership with Trout Unlimited, Colorado Mountain College, Colorado Department of Parks & Wildlife, Ducks Unlimited, and the Army Corps of Engineers. It resulted in the restored land being returned to a more natural state of indigenous plants and wildlife, such as native bighorn sheep, Moose, and Elk, along the Arkansas River. We are now in the process of creating a permanent conservation easement of all 126 acres of owned land, which will further protect valuable Bighorn Sheep habitat and grazing access, and allow for the potential expansion of the Ruby Mountain Springs reclamation project along the upper Arkansas River.
Bottled water is unnecessary.
Americans’ growing preference for bottled water over high-calorie beverages has cut billions of calories out of the American diet. Bottled water cannot, and will not, replace tap water – and we never expect it to. Bottled water does, however, play an important role in helping Americans stay hydrated at a time when more and more beverages are consumed away from home. Americans have a growing preference for water – mineral, sparkling, flavored and still.
Bottled water is also essential in times of natural disaster or other emergencies. We frequently supply drinking water to local municipalities and first responders when tap water may be unavailable. In response to the Decker Fire in Salida in 2019, for example, we donated an entire truckload of bottled water to help first responders and volunteers battling the fire.
Over the years we have also provided bottled water to Colorado communities with compromised municipal systems or shutdowns. For example, in 2008, when Alamosa experienced a salmonella outbreak we donated 22,251 gallons of water, and in 2018 we donated water to Sterling Middle School in Denver when their water system was shut down.
In 2019 alone, we donated more than 18 million bottles of water nationwide to communities in need.
We are encouraging a wasteful, throw-away culture by producing plastic bottles.
Bottled water containers make up less than 1% of municipal waste, but even so, our PET bottles were never meant to be thrown away. They were designed to be recycled and reused to make other bottles. Unfortunately, less than 30% of all plastic bottles are recycled1 and we all have a role to play to make sure ALL plastic containers are recycled – from detergent containers to peanut butter jars to beverage bottles.
With four regionally distributed brands now offering bottles made with 100% rPET and three nationally distributed 100% rPET bottles, we have demonstrated our commitment to creating an end market for recycled plastic. As of June 2020, we have doubled the percentage of rPET used since 2019 across our U.S. domestic portfolio to 16.5%. By 2021, we will reach 25% rPET and by 2025 we plan to reach 50% rPET across that same portfolio.
We are also doing what we can to encourage and inspire consumers to recycle more. We were the first beverage company to add How2Recycle information on the labels of our major U.S. brands, and in 2019, we collaborated with The Recycling Partnership to launch an Instagram recycling hotline to help Americans understand what is recyclable in their communities. In Colorado, we recently funded a waste audit in Chaffee County, through the Chaffee County Community Foundation and in partnership with the Greater Arkansas River Nature Authority (GARNA) and Dr. Erica Gift. The information gathered from this waste audit will be used to expand public education and outreach about waste, as well as expand entrepreneurial solutions for waste diversion in Chaffee County.
To help the underfunded and often outdated recycling infrastructure in the U.S., we made a $6 million investment in the Closed Loop Infrastructure Fund to support projects that help increase recycling capabilities throughout the country. advocate for pragmatic policy, including minimum recycled content bills and the modernization of bottle deposit bills. We also advocate for pragmatic and progressive legislation that aims to achieve a circular economy. We supported the minimum recycled content proposals in Maine and California, and called for the modernization and regional uniformity to New England’s bottle bills. Laws and regulations play an important role and we support public policy solutions that increase the collection, processing, and re-use of all beverage containers.
We will continue to work closely with NGOs, policy makers and industry groups to help increase the use of recycled content in packaging, encourage packaging design that is compatible with the recycling system, improve recycling infrastructure and curbside access, and educate consumers about the impact they can make by recycling.