State Water Board Delays BlueTriton Cease And Desist Order Finalization Re: Strawberry Canyon

It appears that the California State Water Resources Control Board will postpone finalizing the proposed limitations on BlueTriton Brands’ extraction of water from Strawberry Canyon in the San Bernardino Mountains until a yet-undetermined date later this year. The public will have an opportunity to make comment on those limitations, including proposing an outright ban of BlueTriton’s water use in Strawberry Canyon, through August 11.
The board was previously scheduled to take up the matter next week on July 18, but because of what were characterized as adjustments to the final order as hashed out by administrative hearing officer Alan Lilly after extensive hearings in 2022, the public is being provided with an opportunity to provide further input on the order, which in its current form directs the respondent, BlueTriton Brands, Inc. to cease its diversions through ten sources of water in Strawberry Canyon, those being tunnels 2, 3 and 7, and boreholes 1, 1A, 7, 7A, 7B, 7C and 8 in the Strawberry Creek watershed in San Bernardino County for its water-bottling operations because BlueTriton does not have any water rights that authorize those diversions and uses.In 2021, BlueTriton Brands purchased most of the North American water bottling operations of Swiss-owned Nestlé, which included the Arrowhead Brand Spring Water Company. A major portion of the Arrowhead Brand water is sourced in Strawberry Canyon.
Lilly’s order does not prohibit BlueTriton from continuing to divert water through those ten facilities for deliveries to the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians for use at the Arrowhead Springs Hotel property under BlueTriton’s contractual obligations to the San Manuel Band, subject to BlueTriton’s special use permit, inherited from Nestlé, issued by the San Bernardino National Forest under applicable federal law.
Lilly’s order does not prohibit BlueTriton from continuing to divert water through designated boreholes 10, 11 and 12 in lower Strawberry Canyon for its water-bottling operations or deliveries to the San Manuel Band.
Environmentalists, however, have given indication that they will at a future date challenge BlueTriton with regard to the water diversion from boreholes 10, 11 and 12, as the historical record does not reflect that it, Nestlé or any of their corporate predecessors have or had an established right to that water. Lilly’s order did not extend to boreholes 10, 11 or 12 because the challenge of what was then Nestlé’s water use in Strawberry Canyon did not include the drafting of water from those boreholes.

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