- Nestle Waters North America (NWNA) has expressed concerns about the U.S. Forest Service's proposal regarding the renewal of NWNA's permit to pump water out of the San Bernardino National Forest in California. NWNA submitted a 79-page document detailing these concerns to the Forest Service on May 2 and publicly released the document last Friday.
- NWNA said in a statement that "the action proposed by the Forest Service would disrupt established water rights and the long-standing legal process of regulating water use in the State of California ... (and) would create a situation in which the federal government overrides more than a century of California law."
- NWNA also filed a "friend of the court" brief last Friday that argues against three environmental groups, which filed a lawsuit against the Forest Service in October, demanding the agency shut down the San Benardino water pipeline.
Nestle says it has history on its side. In its document, the company cites a historical patent dating back to 1882 and says its water rights have not been challenged since 1931. Nestle also pointed to a "possesory claim to the waters" from 1865. With California becoming a state in 1850, that makes Nestle's claim to historical water rights in that area "among the most senior water rights" in California, according to the document Nestle sent to the Forest Service.
However, after performing an initial review of historical documents from a local archive, Greg Ballmer, president of the Tri-County Conservation League, has requested the Forest Service to investigate Nestle's historical claims because the review "has failed to corroborate the validity of Nestle’s claim to the water," according to The Desert Sun.
Nestle is just one of hundreds of permits that have lapsed in national forests across the state of California, The Desert Sun reported. Those permits, including Nestle's, do not actually expire until the Forest Service renews or cancels them.
Nestle estimates that it pumps less than 0.008% of the state's total water use for all of the company's bottled water pumped in California, not just San Bernardino, according to High Country News.
Between its lengthy letter to the Forest Service and brief filed in a lawsuit it is not a direct party of, Nestle is demonstrating a strong defense of its water rights in San Bernardino. The decision makes sense; bottled water is a significant business for Nestle and one of the fastest-growing food and beverage segments in the U.S.
Nestle has brought in legal assurances that conclude a widespread impact for businesses well beyond itself. The company may have found a way to protect its water rights behind the heated debate between state versus federal laws.