“This whole idea of bottling water goes against Indigenous Peoples’ concept of water is sacred. The 20,000-year-old water in aquifers belongs to the last generation on earth. We don’t have the right to tap into this water.” –Mauro Olivera
I hope this effort draws some attention to yet another in-our-faces corporate outrage. But plastic torches and pitchforks? Come on folks, our predatory corporate enemies are playing for keeps, and I can’t imagine they’ll be fazed one bit by purely symbolic threats. And assuming the use of such innocuous “harmless” objects will prevent violent police response is … optimistic, I’d say. Our increasingly militarized law enforcement industry understands perfectly who has rights and power these days, and cops know who they serve and protect. Even if too many of us seem not to know as much.
Activists ‘Shut Down’ Nestlé Water Bottling Plant in Sacramento
Daily Kos * Fri Mar 27, 2015 at 06:57 PM PDT
Environmental and human rights activists, holding plastic “torches” and “pitchforks,” formed human barricades at both entrances to the Nestlé Waters bottling plant in Sacramento at 5:00 a.m. on Friday, March 20, effectively shutting down the company’s operations for the day.
Members of the “Crunch Nestlé Alliance” shouted out a number of chants, including ”We got to fight for our right to water,” “Nestlé, Stop It, Water Not For Profit,” and “¿Agua Para Quien? Para Nuestra Gente.”
The protesters stayed until about 1 pm, but there were no arrests.
Representatives of the alliance said the company is draining up to 80 million gallons of water a year from Sacramento aquifers during a record drought. They claim Sacramento City Hall has made it possible through a “corporate welfare giveaway.”
“This corporate welfare giveaway is an outrage and warrants a major investigation,” Coalition spokesperson Andy Conn said. “For more than five months we have requested data on Nestlé water use. City Hall has not complied with our request, or given any indication that it will. Sacramentans deserve to know how their money is being spent and what they’re getting for it. In this case, they’re getting ripped off.”
Lola Ellis of 99 Rise Sacramento, who spoke on the bullhorn at the protest, said, “Nestlé’s bottling of water in Sacramento is unsustainable in the current state of drought. We really don’t’ know how much water they are taking from the aquifer and that is a scary thing.”
“The water needs to be used for the local community. If there is not enough water for the local community, the Nestlé corporation should not be making a profit,” she emphasized.
The coalition protested what they call Nestlé’s “virtually unlimited use of water” while Sacramentans (like other Californians) who use a mere 7 to 10 percent of total water used in the State of California, have had severe restrictions and limitations forced upon them.
The coalition is calling on Nestlé to pay rates commensurate with its enormous profit, or voluntarily close down.
“Nestlé pays only 65 cents for each 470 gallons it pumps out of the ground – the same rate as an average residential water user. But the company can turn the area’s water around, and sell it back to Sacramento at mammoth profit,” according to a news release from the activists.
They said Sacramento officials have refused attempts to obtain details of Nestlé’s water use. Coalition members have addressed the Sacramento City Council and requested that Nestlé either pay a commercial rate under a two tier level, or pay a tax on its profit.
A call to the Sacramento City Department of Utilities about the details of Nestlés water use hadn’t been returned as of press time.
But according to Fox 40 News, “In 2014 Nestlé says it used 50 million gallons from the Sacramento Municipal Water Supply, which they say is a fraction of one percent of total water demand within the city of Sacramento.”
A statement issued by the company in October 2014 regarding a previous protest in front of the plant said:
“In Sacramento, Nestlé Waters North America purchases and pays the standard metered rate for municipal water, which is delivered through the municipal pipe system. We are not ranked among the top 10 water users in Sacramento as we use about two thousandths of one percent (0.0016%) of Sacramento’s total water demand. Our company is subject to any restrictions, drought or otherwise, imposed on all light industrial or business customers by the city of Sacramento and we comply with those restrictions.”
Bob Saunders, also with the Crunch Nestlé Alliance, responded, “Nestlé can claim any amount of water they want, but we haven’t seen any documentation of the amount of water they’re using. We do know they’re allowed to take up to 80 million gallons per year.”
Mauro Oliveira, known as “Red Sun,” showed up at the protest with his children, including Rise, Aren and Mahai’a, and connected the battle of local activists against Nestlé with the struggle of Indian Tribes, family farmers, grassroots environmental activists and fishermen to stop fracking, the Shasta Dam raise, and Governor Jerry Brown’s Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the twin tunnels, the most environmentally destructive public works project in California history.
“This whole idea of bottling water goes against Indigenous Peoples’ concept of water is sacred,” said Oliveira. “The 20,000-year-old water in aquifers belongs to the last generation on earth. We don’t have the right to tap into this water.”
“The Governor said we should conserve, but millions of gallons of fracking waste are being reinjected into the aquifer in California. The Governor talks out of both sides of his mouth. Polluting our water supplies is a violation of human rights,” said Oliveira.
You can view photos of the protest at:
Raiding pristine water from a National Forest stream
The bottling plant in Sacramento is not the only one in California. A recent investigation in the Desert Sun found that Nestlé Waters North America has been pumping water from pristine streams of the San Bernardino National Forest with little to no oversight by the U.S. Forestry Service.
“Nestlé Waters North America holds a longstanding right to use this water from the national forest near San Bernardino,” according to the Sun. “But the U.S. Forest Service hasn’t been keeping an eye on whether the taking of water is harming Strawberry Creek and the wildlife that depends on it. In fact, Nestle’s permit to transport water across the national forest expired in 1988. It hasn’t been reviewed since, and the Forest Service hasn’t examined the ecological effects of drawing tens of millions of gallons each year from the springs.”
On its website, Nestlé claims that it is committed to “environmental stewardship.”
“36 years of experience promoting healthy hydration, Nestlé Waters North America has 15 leading U.S. and Canadian bottled water brands,” according to the company. “The company’s commitment to environmental stewardship, especially in the areas of water use, packaging and energy, as well as its dedication to partnering in the communities where it operates, have led Nestlé Waters to achieve the number one bottled drinking water position in the U.S.”
Activists disagree strongly with the company’s claims of commitment to “environmental stewardship.” In October, the “Crunch Nestlé” coalition released a “white paper” highlighting predatory water profiteering actions taken by Nestle’ Water Bottling Company in various cities, counties, states and countries.
Most of those great “deals” yielded mega profits for Nestlé at the expense of the public. Additionally, the environmental impact on many of those areas yielded “disastrous results,” the paper stated.
Nestlé is currently the leading supplier of the world’s bottled water, including such brands as Perrier and San Pellegrino. It has has 7,500 employees and 29 bottled water facilities across the U.S. and Canada, and annual revenues were $4.0 billion in 2012, up 6.8% from 2011. For nearly four decades, activists from an array of organizations have criticized the company for its human rights violations throughout the world.
For example, Food and Water Watch and other organizations blasted Nestlé’s “Human Rights Impact Assessment,” released at the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in December 2013, as a “public relations stunt.”
“The failure to examine Nestlé’s track record on the human right to water is not surprising given recent statements by its chair Peter Brabeck-Letmath challenging the human right to water,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch. She noted that the company famously declared at the 2000 World Water Forum in the Netherlands that water should be defined as a need—not as a human right.
Watch Nestlé’s CEO declare water “food that should be privatized, and not a human right”:
More recently Brabeck-Letmathe, after facing international criticism for his remarks, reversed course and now said he thinks that “water is a human right and that everyone, everywhere in the world, has the right to clean, safe water for drinking and sanitation.”
But activists continue to cite the company’s bad human rights record, noting that Nestlé workers who have protested unjust labor conditions at the corporation’s facilities in Colombia have been assassinated by paramilitary death squads.
“In November 2013, Colombian trade unionist Oscar Lopez Trivino became the fifteenth Nestlé worker to be assassinated by a paramilitary organization while many of his fellow workers were in the midst of a hunger strike protesting the corporation’s refusal to hear their grievances,” according to the groups.
Taking the water from aquifers throughout the world and the deaths of workers protesting Nestlé policies are not the only violation of human rights that activists charge the corporation with. Groups including the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) and Save the Children claim that the promotion of Nestlé infant formula over breastfeeding has led to health problems and deaths among infants in less economically developed countries.
“They’re a despicable company with death built into their business plan,” summed up Conn.
For more information about the Crunch Nestlé Alliance, contact Andy Conn (530) 906-8077 camphgr55 (at) gmail.com or Bob Saunders (916) 370-8251
The Drought and The Tunnels
The Sacramento protest took place just days after Jay Famiglietti, the senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech and a professor of Earth system science at UC Irvine, revealed in an op-ed in the LA Times on March 12 that California has only one year of water supply left in its reservoirs. (http://touch.latimes.com/…)
The protest also made the news as Governor Jerry Brown continues to fast-track his Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels to ship Sacramento River water to corporate agribusiness, Southern California water agencies, and oil companies conducting fracking operations.
The $67 billion plan won’t create one single drop of new water, but it will take vast tracts of Delta farm land out of production under the guise of “habitat restoration” in order to irrigate drainage-impaired soil owned by corporate mega-growers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.
The tunnel plan will also hasten the extinction of Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species, as well as imperil the salmon and steelhead populations on the Klamath and Trinity rivers. The peripheral tunnels will be good for agribusiness, water privateers, oil companies and the 1 percent, but will be bad for the fish, wildlife, people and environment of California and the public trust.
** Update **
Brown orders California’s first mandatory water restrictions: ‘It’s a different world’
Los Angeles Times * March 31, 2015 – with later updates
By Chris Megerian, Matt Stevens and Bettina Boxall
Early data show snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is lower than any year since 1950. Abysmal snowpack is another foreboding sign for a state languishing in drought
Standing in a brown field that would normally be smothered in several feet of snow, Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday ordered cities and towns across California to cut water use by 25% as part of a sweeping set of mandatory drought restrictions, the first in state history.
The directive comes more than a year after Brown asked for a 20% voluntary cut in water use that most parts of the state have failed to attain, even as one of the most severe modern droughts drags into a fourth year. It also came on the day that water officials measured the lowest April 1 snowpack in more than 60 years of record-keeping in the Sierra Nevada.
Wearing hiking shoes and a windbreaker in an area that normally requires cross-country skis this time of year, Brown announced the executive order in a Sierra Nevada meadow that provided a dramatic illustration of the state’s parched conditions.
“We’re standing on dry grass,” Brown said. “We should be standing on five feet of snow.”
Emphasizing that the drought could persist, Brown said Californians must change their water habits. “It’s a different world,” he said. “We have to act differently.”
The order focused on urban life even though agriculture accounts for roughly three quarters of Californians’ water usage. Cities have to stop watering the median strips that run down the middle of roads. The state will partner with local agencies to remove 50 million square feet of grass — the equivalent of about 1,150 football fields — and replace it with drought-tolerant landscaping.
State agencies will create a temporary rebate program to encourage homeowners to replace water-guzzling appliances with high-efficiency ones. Golf courses, campuses and cemeteries must cut their water use. New developments will have to install drip or microspray systems if they irrigate with drinking water.
Water agencies will discourage water waste with higher rates and fees.
The order aims to reduce the amount of water used statewide in urban areas in 2015 by 25%.
Some critics of Brown’s order said it didn’t do enough to address agricultural uses. Adam Scow, director of Food & Water Watch California, called the order disappointing.
“The governor must save our groundwater from depletion by directing the state water board to protect groundwater as a public resource,” Scow said in a statement.
Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the State Water Resources Control Board, said the measure isn’t about “finger-pointing”…”It’s about everybody having to step up in these tough times.”
The water board will release draft regulations in mid-April to implement the order. It plans to approve the regulations in early May.
Marcus said local agencies will receive targets for cutting water use based on how well they’ve done so far. Local agencies that have been slow to conserve will feel the order’s effects most dramatically, Marcus said.
“You’re rewarding the early adopters … and you’re saying to the laggers, ‘You have to make a change,'” she said.
Most of the burden of enforcement will fall on local agencies. If they don’t follow the governor’s order, the state can fine them as much as $10,000 a day.
Many Southern California agencies are already taking steps called for in Brown’s order. For instance, under a turf rebate program administered by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, spokesman Bob Muir said homeowners are planning to remove almost 89 million square feet of turf, the equivalent of more than 59,000 frontyards. It’s unclear whether Brown’s mandate for 50 million square feet of lawn replacement includes work already done by local agencies. Similarly, Los Angeles already has a tiered water-rate structure to encourage conservation.
Although Southern California water managers said it might be tough for some cities to meet the 25% target, they welcomed Brown’s action.
“It’s the right time. It’s a proper directive,” said Rob Hunter, general manager of the Municipal Water District of Orange County.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti praised the executive order, noting that last year he called for a 20% cut in the city’s water use by 2017.
In Long Beach, Water Department General Manager Kevin Wattier said the order would have the biggest effect on water districts that use much more water per capita than Long Beach and Los Angeles.
“The governor understands we don’t have time to allow any voluntary measures to work,” said Mark Gold of UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. “This is such a growing crisis that mandatory conservation was absolutely necessary.”
Lester Snow, executive director of the California Water Foundation and former state secretary of natural resources, said even more restrictions may be necessary in the future, such as banning all outdoor water use. “We’re probably going to need more action before we’re through the summer,” he said.
Brown issued his order at Phillips Station, about 90 miles east of Sacramento, where state workers conducted a manual snow survey as part of statewide readings that revealed that the water content of the Sierra Nevada snowpack was only about 5% of the average for April 1. That is the lowest for the date in records going back to 1950.
The Sierra snowpack accounts for about 30% of the state’s water supply, and although major reservoir storage is better than it was last year, there will be little snowmelt to replenish reservoirs this spring.
Nurit Katz, UCLA’s Chief Sustainability Officer and co-chair of a UC system-wide water task force, said every campus has created a water action plan focused on reducing consumption. UCLA is installing artificial turf on its intramural field, retrofitting fixtures such as toilets and developing a smart water filtration system.
Combined with other efforts, the campus expects to save millions of gallons of water each year, she said.
Brown’s order requires agricultural districts in depleted groundwater basins to share data on groundwater use with the state. “The agricultural community is already being hit very hard,” Marcus said.
For the second year in a row, Central Valley growers without senior water rights are likely to get no supplies from the valley’s big federal irrigation project. Last year farmers idled about 500,000 acres for lack of water, and this year they may be forced to leave even more cropland unplanted.
“Some people want to say, ‘What about the farmers?’ And farmers want to say, ‘What about those people watering their lawns?'” Brown said. “We all have something to do, and we can all do a little better.”
Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
** Second Update **
In Dry California, Thirsty Oil and Big-Ag Industries Exempt from Water Regulations
Despite historic drought, Governor Jerry Brown has not put restrictions on oil drilling and fracking, but is focusing on urban usage of water
Common Dreams * Friday, April 03, 2015
As California Governor Jerry Brown this week instituted the state’s first-ever mandatory restrictions on water usage to combat its historic four-year drought, environmental activists are pointing out two glaring exemptions from the order: the fossil fuel and agriculture industries.
Brown’s mandate, announced Wednesday, directs cities and communities to cut down their water consumption by 25 percent, but does not make any requirements of the state’s numerous oil companies, including those which practice the water-heavy fracking method of extraction, nor of large-scale farming operations.
“Both of them use tremendous amounts of water,” Earthjustice attorney Trent Orr told Common Dreams.
Brown is “putting restrictions on everyone except oil and agriculture… it seems like the powerful industries have gotten a pass,” Orr continued.
Adam Scow, California director of Food & Water Watch, also said Wednesday:
“It is disappointing that Governor Brown’s executive order to reduce California water use does not address the state’s most egregious corporate water abuses. In the midst of a severe drought, the Governor continues to allow corporate farms and oil interests to deplete and pollute our precious groundwater resources that are crucial for saving water.”
California’s oil and gas industry uses more than 2 million gallons of fresh water a day to produce oil through fracking, acidizing, and steam injections, according to environmental estimates. In 2014, California oil producers used up nearly 70 million gallons of water on fracking alone, state officials told Reuters on Thursday.
While that number is lower than projected, fracking and toxic injection wells must not be given “a continuing license to break the law and poison our water,” Zack Malitz, an organizer with environmental group Credo, told Reuters.
“Fracking and toxic injection wells may not be the largest uses of water in California,” he added, “but they are undoubtedly some of the stupidest.”
The bulk of Brown’s mandate focuses on urban water use, which as the LA Times points out, makes up less than a quarter of the total water consumption in the state.
“The government’s response to this growing crisis has been behind the curve,” Jonas Minton, water policy adviser for the Planning and Conservation League and a former state water official, told the Times.
Rather than focusing on urban usage, Brown should go after the industries which contributed the most to the drought, environmental activists say.
Scow continued, “Governor Brown should stop… the ongoing contamination of groundwater aquifers by toxic wastewater from oil and gas operations. It is disturbing and irresponsible that the Brown administration continues to allow oil companies to contaminate and rob Californians of these fresh water sources.”
According to Orr, the looming repercussions of the drought will be felt for years down the line and may emerge in yet-unknowable ways. In the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, for instance, species of fish once abundant in the area are now nearly extinct, he said—a development which poses an ominous question: “What kind of natural systems will we have in California?”
“The environment desperately needs water,” he added. “We’re very disturbed at the unequal sharing of the burden… There’s no principled reason for it.”
As to why these industries found themselves exempt from facing the consequences of California’s historic drought, Orr said, “The agriculture industry is tremendously powerful in California, and oil and gas are tremendously powerful period.”
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