What steps is Nestlé Waters North America (NWNA) taking to conserve water during California’s historic drought?
Like all Californians, we care about the effect this drought is having on our communities and we’re doing our part to conserve water. At Nestlé Waters North America (NWNA), we have invested in new technologies in our facilities that are projected to save 55 million gallons of water each year in California.
Optimize factory water consumption and recycle the water extracted from milk at our Modesto, California evaporated milk facility, saving a projected 63 million gallons of water per year. We are also implementing the Alliance for Water Stewardship Standard in all of our California operations within the next two years. These rigorous standards were developed by NGOs, leading development organizations and industry leaders to ensure water use is sustainable for the long term. We also go beyond conservation through water stewardship activities designed to preserve the sustainability of California’s watersheds and water bodies.
How do you ensure your operations in San Bernardino National Forest work in harmony with the local environment?
Arrowhead® Mountain Spring Water has been sustainably bottled from the springs in Strawberry Canyon, in what is now the San Bernardino National Forest, for more than 121 years. We take our responsibility as a California water steward seriously and our ability to operate for more than a century points to our commitment to long-term sustainability. NWNA’s team of engineers, hydrologists, biologists and geologists consistently monitor and care for the company’s spring sources, including those in Strawberry Canyon, as well as their surrounding environments.
At all of our spring sites, including Arrowhead Springs, we only source water that naturally flows to the surface. This ensures that we never collect more than is naturally available. We do not pump water from Arrowhead Springs or any other spring site. It is because of our commitment to sustainability that we have also proposed a voluntary, science-based environmental adaptive management plan for Arrowhead Springs to the United States Forest Service (USFS). This far-reaching and transparent, publicly available plan builds on our track record of careful management. It is designed to protect the springs and surrounding forest environment by using scientifically-based standards recognized by the Forest Service to monitor the environmental conditions around our spring sites and respond appropriately to any changes, including reducing our water collection when conditions require.
What is the status of your permit with the United States Forest Service?
The USFS has confirmed that our permit is still valid and that it remains in full force and effect. This special use permit covers the operation of our pipeline and catchment areas at Arrowhead Springs. Ours is one of hundreds of backlogged permit renewals for water users in the San Bernardino National Forest currently being managed by the USFS. The Forest Service is now conducting its permit review and renewal process and we continue to work with them closely, as we have over the years, to ensure they have all the information they need to efficiently manage our application. Nestlé complies with all reporting requirements and continues to report its water use from the spring as mandated by California law.
What steps are you taking to assure Californians that your operations are environmentally responsible?
As part of the permit renewal process we have proposed to the USFS a voluntary environmental adaptive management approach based on objective, scientific triggers and standards. The proposed plan builds on our current sustainable practices and includes a series of short- and long-term, science-based recommendations to monitor and protect the springs and surrounding environment. We expect that these will include commitments regarding steps that would be taken if science-based data concluded our activities were negatively impacting the environment.
We take our commitment to environmental stewardship very seriously, and look forward to continuing to work closely with the USFS on these recommendations and their implementation.
What is your reaction to the lawsuit ruling in the case against the United States Forest Service related to NWNA’s permit in the San Bernardino National Forest?
While Nestlé Waters is not a party to the case, we are pleased that the ruling confirms the USFS can continue to move forward with the permit renewal process related to our Arrowhead brand. The USFS has acknowledged that our permit is in full force and effect until the renewal process is concluded. We look forward to working in close cooperation with them to continue to manage the Arrowhead Springs in Strawberry Canyon sustainably for the long term.
Why does NWNA continue to bottle water in California?
Almost all of the water NWNA bottles in California stays in California—80%. Water bottled locally has a smaller carbon emission footprint and by basing our bottling facilities in the state, we are contributing to California’s economy. Since 70% of beverages consumed by Americans comes from a bottle or another container, if NWNA stopped production, people in California may switch to less healthy, higher calorie beverages, which use even more water and plastic to produce than bottled water.
What are the terms of your permit with the Forest Service?
Arrowhead ® Mountain Spring Water has been sustainably bottled from the springs in what is now the San Bernardino National Forest for more than 121 years. We have held senior water rights for the springs in accordance with California law since the late 1800s. Our Special Use Permit with the USFS is for the use of the right-of-way where our four-inch, stainless steel water pipeline is located. NWNA regularly reports its water use at the Arrowhead Springs to the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB). We pay the standard annual fee charged by the Forest Service for all Special Use Permit holders.
How much water is extracted from the springs in the San Bernardino National Forest?
We do not pump water from the Arrowhead Springs, but rather only source water that flows to the surface. This helps ensure we never source more than is naturally available. In 2014, we collected 28 million gallons. This represents less than 10% of measured flow by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) monitoring gauge located at the base of two Canyons, Strawberry Canyon where our springs are located, and neighboring Twin Creek Canyon. In 2015, which had more rainfall than 2014, we collected approximately 36 million gallons. Taking a longer-term view, in 2015 we collected 29% less water than the annual average over the last 10 years.