Nestlé and the Drought

28 July 2015


 By Grania Power, CFJC Fundraising and Climate Change Intern 

The California drought has made national headline news this year, with water resources reaching a new level of scarcity. Governor Brown has asked state residents to cut back their home water use by an average of 25%.  Businesses, too, have been asked to cut back by 20%. According to researchers at UC Davis, by the end of 2015 the drought will have caused 18,600 people working in the agriculture industry to lose their jobs, and leave about 560,000 acres of farmland fallow in the nation’s most essential agricultural state.

But not all businesses are asked to conserve. Amidst the regulations on households and California businesses, the multi-national Nestle Corporation continues to extract California water for bottling and re-sale. Nestle is permitted to extract unlimited quantities of water at its bottling sites. It is not required to disclose to the public how much water it extracts at any bottling site, or even the location of its bottling sites. It has been estimated, however, that Nestle is extracting around 80 million gallons/year from its plant in Sacramento alone.

Let’s put that number into perspective. The average California family uses around 360 gallons of water per day. After it makes a 25% reduction in its water use for the drought, this family will use 126,144 gallons per year. This means that Nestle’s Sacramento plant alone is using 634.2 households’ worth of water each year.


Nestle is the world’s largest food corporation, operating across six continents. In 2013, Nestle was ranked the most profitable corporation in the world by Fortune Magazine. And although bottled water accounts for only a small portion—10.3%– of Nestle’s total revenue, Nestle is the largest bottled water corporation in the world.

In California, Nestle’s Arrowhead brand of water is bottled on the land of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians. However, the terms of Nestle’s deal with the Morongo are murky at best. There is no information available as to how much Nestle paid the Morongo for access to their mountain spring, and there have been no environmental impact assessments for the project. The U.S. Forest Service has not been tracking how much water is leaving the San Bernardino National Forest. Most alarmingly of all, investigators from the Desert Sun recently uncovered the fact that Nestle’s permit to transport water from this Millard Canyon spring national forest expired twenty-seven years ago.


Momentum is building in California against Nestle’s water extraction. Protests have sprung-up all over the state, including very successful petition efforts, such as the Courage Campaign’s call to “Demand that Nestlé stop bottling CA’s water during drought!” In March of this year, activists from the “Crunch Nestle Alliance” formed a human barricade in front of the entrances to the Nestle Waters bottling plant in Sacramento, and shut down its operations for a full work day.

Perhaps we can all take a page from the water activists’ handbook, and make all businesses accountable for doing their part to help conserve water during this time of drought.



CFJC promotes the basic human right to healthy food while advancing social, agricultural, environmental and economic justice. Through advocacy, organizing and education, we collaborate with community-based efforts to create a sustainable food supply. We envision a food system in which all activities, from farm to table, are equitable, healthful, regenerative and community-driven.

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