CALIFORNIA September 21, 2016 – A Federal court today, declared Nestlé’s reliance on a long-expired permit valid, ruling in favor of the US Forest Service for allowing the Swiss conglomerate to continue its use of a four-mile pipeline that siphons water from the San Bernardino National Forest despite the Forest Service’s lack of action on any permit renewal for 28 years.
“The court has just confirmed what many Americans fear, massive corporations play by a different set of rules than the rest of us. Nestlé has been pulling a fast one for nearly 30 years, taking a public resource, depriving plants and animals of life-sustaining water, and selling that water at an obscene profit without the right to do so, but apparently our justice system is OK with that.” said Eddie Kurtz, Executive Director of Courage Campaign Institute.
“We’re shocked by the court’s decision to let Nestlé continue its operations, and we will continue to stand with hundreds of thousands of Californians and people across the nation to take back control of this public water. This fight is far from over.” added Michael O’Heaney, Executive Director of the Story of Stuff Project.
“The court’s decision is disappointing, but the real tragedy lies in the fact that Strawberry Creek is drying up, dooming the plants, fish and animals that have relied on it for tens of thousands of years” said Ileene Anderson, senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Bottling water is not worth sacrificing Strawberry Creek, so we’re considering our options for appeal.”
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In 2015 alone, an estimated 36 million gallons were piped away from the forest to be bottled and sold under Nestlé’s Arrowhead brand of bottled water. The permit expired in 1988 but the piping system remains in active use, siphoning about 98,000 gallons of water a day out of the forest last year. Reports from the end of 2015 and the summer of 2016 indicate that water levels at Strawberry Creek are at record lows, threatening local wildlife that are already dealing with the ongoing drought in Southern California.
In October 2015, Courage Campaign Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Story of Stuff Project jointly filed a lawsuit claiming that the Forest Service allowed Nestlé to continue using its siphons to collect millions of gallons of water for 28 years after its permit had expired. The lawsuit spurred the Forest Service to open a review of Nestle’s application for a new permit and the State Water Board to conduct an investigation into the validity of Nestle’s claimed water right.
In June, activists from the Story of Stuff Project, the California-based Courage Campaign Institute and the Center for Biological Diversity rallied outside the U.S. District Court building in Riverside, California as Judge Bernal considered a challenge to Nestlé’s four-mile pipeline.