By Tim Brown
As Californians grapple with the Gov. Brown’s mandatory water reductions, the question is being asked, what is the responsible use of water during a drought of this magnitude?As a company with a century-long history of operations in California and more than 1,500 employees across the state, Nestlé Waters welcomes the dialogue about our company’s water use in California. Some are understandably curious about our operations and the sources of the water we bottle.
I know some believe that drought conditions should bring the bottling of water to an end. Experts on water use who have studied the issue have recognized, however, that bottled water is not a contributing factor to the drought.
Nestlé Waters operates five California bottling facilities, using a total of 705 million gallons of water per year. To put that amount in perspective, this is roughly equal to the annual average watering needs of two California golf courses.
We adhere to all local, state and federal regulations regarding our operations, all of which are in good standing, including our permit to transmit water in the San Bernardino National Forest. Recent accounts have inaccurately described our permit as “expired.” Like several hundred other special permit holders in the San Bernardino National Forest — and some 3,000 nationwide — whose permit is under review, our permit remains valid and, according to federal law, “does not expire until the application has been finally determined by the agency.”
Regardless of the fact that we are a small water user, everyone should be part of the solution, including Nestlé Waters. There is a need for greater transparency as well as comprehensive and balanced oversight of all water users. We take our role as a water steward seriously and support conservation efforts to safeguard the long-term environmental sustainability of California.
We know there is more to do and we strive for high standards and best practices for our operations. That is why we are implementing a top-to-bottom review of our drought contingency plans, actively seeking new ways to improve our operations in California to save water across Nestlé facilities, as we have done globally.
We agree that how California manages its groundwater supplies is of critical importance. Water use regulations should exist to both protect the health of environmental habitats and to ensure fairness to all users.
In light of the governor’s mandatory water reductions of 25 percent in communities across the state, we at Nestlé Waters are doubling down on our drought-mitigation efforts. Our largest plant is Silver LEED-certified, and we have made investments in all our facilities to further reduce water use. Our latest conservation measures include a waste-water recovery project expected to save annually 25 million gallons of water. We supported the recent water bond to improve infrastructure and protect and restore watersheds and ecosystems and we believe that California’s new groundwater management legislation is a step in the right direction. This legislation takes an important step forward; however, we must be diligent in its implementation and pursue timely improvements in both measurement and oversight to ensure the sustainability of California’s groundwater basins.
Which still raises the question, how should bottled water be viewed among conversations around the use of California’s water resources?
Whether from the bottle or the tap, using water for human hydration is one of its highest uses. There is a real need to have the right water at the right time at the right place.
The reality is demand for bottled water is higher than it has ever been, in large measure because people are looking for healthier alternatives to juices, soft drinks and in some cases, beer and wine. On top of that, the production of these beverages requires two to eight times as much water as bottled water, and that does not include the additional water necessary to grow the ingredients in those products.
As a company with a California heritage of more than 100 years, we understand that what we do matters; we care about the impact and contribution we make. We are committed to being a good steward of water resources and engaging in a thoughtful dialogue on the role of water in California’s unparalleled environment and economy.
Tim Brown is chairman, president and CEO of Nestlé Waters North America.