Pressure builds over bottled water
Towns around the U.S. fight firms that want to soak up a local resource.
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Deserved or not, Nestlé, whose brands focus primarily on spring water and not the easier-to-procure filtered water from other sources, has become a favorite target of the anti-bottled-water movement. There’s a website called Stop Nestle Waters.org, and a documentary called “For the Love of Water,” or FLOW, casts the company in an unfavorable light. Nestlé has responded to FLOW with its own video .Skip to next paragraph
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Lauerman attributes anti-Nestlé sentiment and court battles to its being the largest producer of foodstuffs in the world and the largest bottled-water company in North America. Big companies make big targets, he says. As for the resistance in Chaffee County, he calls it “emotional” and not based on fact.
Others have a different take.
“Citizens are better off rejecting the zoning right at the beginning rather than getting into long, expensive litigation,” says Jim Olson, an environmental attorney in Traverse City, Mich., who has fought Nestlé for more than nine years.
“The lesson learned is: Don’t let it start,” he says. Indeed, worried by the prospect of facing a deep-pocketed corporation in court, one of the conditions that Chaffee County mandated was that Nestlé establish a reimbursement fund to pay for any future litigation.
And there’s another detail in the agreement that strikes many as notable. In drought-prone Colorado, law dictates that anyone applying for a water permit must present an “augmentation plan.”
Nestlé, for example, will replace water it pumps with water leased from Aurora, a city 100 miles to the northeast. The city will redeposit an amount of water equal to what Nestlé withdraws into the upper Arkansas River. Chaffee County mandated that replacement water must come from other counties, or the water-permitting process reopens.
The county has guaranteed itself a net-zero water loss.
These laws can seem Byzantine, even anachronistic, to the outsider. Only earlier this year, for example, did Colorado legalize rainwater harvesting. Before that, it was technically illegal to catch water falling off one’s own roof.
But the assumption underlying these laws – that water is in limited supply – is the correct one, says Robert Glennon, author of “Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What to Do About It.” Other states often allow “a limitless number of straws in the glass,” he says.
But in Colorado, if you can’t replace it, you can’t take it. “That’s exactly what I think we should do,” he says.
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