State Makes Finding Nestlé/Arrowhead SB Mountain H2O Extraction Is 7 Times Its Limit

Nestlé has been diverting to its corporate use more than seven times the amount of water it is entitled to draw from the San Bernardino National Forest, according to state officials.
Nestlé bottles water drawn from Strawberry Canyon at the approximate 5,000-foot elevation level in the San Bernardino Mountains, selling it under the Arrowhead 100% Mountain Spring Water brand name. Nestlé acquired the Strawberry Creek water diversion system from Perrier in 1992. The permits for the water extraction system, consisting of borings, horizontal wells, tunnels, pipelines and other appurtenances, expired in 1987. Nestlé, as did Perrier, maintained its operation in Strawberry Canyon by continuing to pay a $524 annual fee while the Forest Service delayed carrying out the environmental review for the renewal of the permits. Nestlé’s activity, which was never favored by environmentalists, came under increasing fire as the statewide drought, which first manifested in 2011, advanced. In 2015, after environmental groups were gearing up to file a lawsuit claiming the U.S. Forest Service had violated protocols and harmed the ecology of the mountain by allowing Nestlé Waters North America to continue its operations in Strawberry Canyon for 28 years after its permit expired, the Forest Service moved to make an environmental review. In the meantime, Nestlé continued its water extraction, pumping an average of 62.56 million gallons of water annually from the San Bernardino Mountains. Environmentalists then lodged protests with the water rights division of the California Water Resources Control Board, alleging Nestlé was diverting water without rights, making unreasonable use of the water it was taking, failing to monitor the amount drawn and making accurate reports of the water it was taking, and wreaking environmental damage by its action.
Following a two-year investigation, state officials determined that while Nestlé has the right to divert up to 26 acre-feet of water (8.47 million gallons) per year, it was actually drafting 192 acre-feet (62.56 million gallons), such that 166 acre-feet (54.09 million gallons) was unauthorized, according to a report released Thursday December 21.
The water rights division recommended that Nestlé immediately end its diversions beyond the 26 acre-foot threshold or otherwise marshal evidence supporting its current level of diversion within 30 days.
In reaction to the development, Alix Dunn, a spokesperson from Nestlé Waters North America, told the Sentinel, “We are pleased that the report released by the State Water Resources Control Board validates Nestlé Waters’ chain of title and reaffirms that we hold valid, pre-1914 surface water rights and groundwater rights to a significant amount of the water in Strawberry Canyon. We are pleased that they have confirmed we have a right to these ‘authorized diversions,’ and we will continue to operate lawfully according to these existing rights and will comply fully with California law. We look forward to cooperating with the State Water Resources Control Board during the review process and to providing the necessary documents to supplement the State Water Resources Control Board’s report, including producing information requested from over a century ago, to the extent that it is available.”

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