Bottled Water Wars Heat up In California

Published On August 23, 2010 | By Tomás Bosque | Government

Bill would tell state how much of its water goes to bottlers

Does the state have a right to know where its water is going?

Major multinational corporations such as Nestle are allowed to siphon it up for free—only to sell it back to Californians and others in energy-guzzling plastic bottles likely to end up in landfills or floating off our lovely coastlines. Profit margin: Up to 10,000 percent.

Bottled water is increasingly controversial for these reasons. And while you may not believe that the occasional Dasani or Aquafina is a Class A environmental felony, it would certainly make sense to have companies pay the state something for the millions of gallons of water they remove from the public’s groundwater supply.

A state bill sponsored by Felipe Fuentes (D-San Fernando) will soon get a floor vote to eliminate on part of the scandal: It would require water bottlers to report how much water they take from public aquifers. The governor vetoed the bill last year in a skirmish over the budget.

Also last summer, the City of Sacramento made a deal with Nestle that is stricter than most: It charges the company 65 centers per 100 cubic feet of water, instead of giving it up for free. But the city didn’t limit the Nestle’s total draw, even as local residents faced water restrictions. And the 65 cent price is 10 cents lower than the generic commercial rate, although Nestle will make a 10,000 percent profit on the water.

Fuentes’ bill wouldn’t undo sweetheart deals like this one, but it would force water bottlers like Nestle to report their water use to the state — which would empower officials to consider this significant source of commercial use in determining how best to handle California’s contentious water issues.

Ask your representatives to support the bill by signing this petition.

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