SACRAMENTO, California — Activists are preparing to disrupt business at a Nestlé bottled water plant for a third time as the corporation continues to bottle millions of gallons of water in California amid an historic drought.
Scheduled for Dec. 4, the protest marks the third time the “Crunch Nestlé Alliance” will target the corporation’s bottling plant for direct action. The group carried out similar temporary blockades of business in October 2014 and March 2015 at the Nestlé Waters bottling facility in Sacramento, California. Dan Bacher, reporting on the March 20 action for the citizen journalism site Indybay, claimed the group “effectively [shut] down the company’s operations for the day” by blocking both entrances to the plant from 5 a.m. until 1 p.m.
According to a story published by Bacher on Nov. 10 on YubaNet.com, a local news site devoted to the Sierra Nevada region of Central California, activists are expanding their efforts for the upcoming event to also protest at the nearby Alhambra Water Company. Still, Nestlé, who the alliance called “The Grinch Who Stole Our Water,” remains the main target.
Climate activists seem determined to keep fighting the corporation, despite Nestlé’s attempts at “greenwashing” their water use. Corporate CEO Paul Grimwood attempted to defend the company’s bottling practices in a Nov. 4 interview with Fortune’s Erika Fry:
“Let’s be honest, everyone in California is concerned about the drought. We recently gave out 8,500 drought kits—one kit to each employee. Everybody has got to play their part, but we at Nestle think we need to set a standard as well for bigger business.”
Grimwood did admit that “everybody has the right to good quality food and good clean water,” part of a confusing trend in which the company’s corporate leaders have alternately argued that water is and is not a human right.
Lawsuit launched against Nestlé’s ‘illegal’ bottling
In October, three California environmental groups filed suit against Nestlé, arguing that the corporation is illegally bottling water from the drought-stricken San Bernardino Forest. According to a statement from the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups involved in the lawsuit:
“In 2014 alone an estimated 28 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 68,000 gallons of water a day out of the forest last year.”
Activists also accuse state and federal officials of deliberately ignoring Nestlé’s illegal but profitable bottling operations. The Crunch Nestlé Alliance previously targeted the Sacramento home of California Gov. Jerry Brown for protests, while Eddie Kurtz, executive director of the California-based Courage Campaign Institute, another group involved in the lawsuit, noted:
“The U.S. Forest Service has been enabling Nestlé’s illegal bottling in the San Bernardino National Forest for 27 years, and it has to stop. Our government won’t stand up to them, so we’re taking matters into our own hands.”
In contrast to the seemingly permissive attitudes of California officials, on Nov. 9 Oregon Gov. Kate Brown called for greater public scrutiny over Nestlé’s plans to bottle water in the state’s Columbia River Gorge amid similar dry conditions plaguing the Pacific Northwest.
El Niño not enough to bring relief
Although El Niño, the cyclical weather pattern that periodically brings warm, wet weather to North America, is predicted to drench Central California next year, climate experts worry it won’t be enough to end the historic drought. Despite the predicted rainfall, new statewide water restrictions will go into effect in 2016.
Brian K. Sullivan, a weather reporter for Bloomberg Business, reported that the state’s meteorologists are anxiously measuring snowfall in the mountainous region of the state crucial to replenishing California’s aquifer. He quoted one expert, who warned that much more is needed to end the drought:
“‘Since it has been dry for so long, people get excited,’ said Rob Hartman, hydrologist in charge of the California Nevada River Forecast Center in Sacramento. ‘We have had some small storms that left a sprinkle of snow in the mountains. We are still waiting for winter to arrive. We are not ahead of schedule by any means.’”
Watch: Who Is Sucking Water Out Of California Without A Permit?