Corporations Drain Water, Leaving Californians Out to Dry

Corporations Drain Water, Leaving Californians Out to Dry

With summer in full swing, eager Californians are going to local beaches, parks, lakes, rivers, and reservoirs to cool off. However, those who go to their local reservoir will have a harsh wake-up call when they see the dangerously low water levels, signaling the reality of the drought.

Due to the climate crisis, California is in constant limbo when it comes to the drought. We’re either concerned about being in a drought or slipping into one, and for good reason. Unusually dry seasons have escalated to drought conditions throughout the state and the Western half of the United States. As if the drought was not a big enough threat to our state’s volatile water levels, corporations are only adding to the problem.

In April of this year, Nestle sold their regional spring water brands in the U.S. and Canada to private equity firms for $4.3 billion. Prior to the sale, Nestle Waters North America was found to have taken 58 million gallons of California spring water, exceeding the 2.3 million a year they could validly claim. According to the Story of Stuff Project, Nestle has taken “on average, 25 times as much water as it may have a right to.”

State officials have since sent a cease-and-desist order to Nestle North Waters North America, now BlueTriton Brands, as a result of complaints that Nestle’s operations have depleted Strawberry Creek, a waterway in San Bernardino that provides drinking water for 750,000 residents and habitats to local wildlife.

If the order is finalized, the company can face fines between $500-$1000 for each day they took water since the end of 2017 as their three-year permit from 2018 would be invalid. After being sold for $4.3 billion, the company can afford to challenge the order. However, even if the challenge doesn’t go their way, they have the means to pay the fines and continue draining our state’s water. Companies like Nestle can afford to pay whatever is necessary to maintain operations, but Californians aren’t as fortunate.

While everyone is familiar with water conservation efforts, low-income communities of color will be hit hardest due to inequitable access to water. For instance, Latinx communities in the Central Valley face threats on all fronts from the consequences of a shrinking water supply. Rural communities rely on water for farming, and the drought would pose serious challenges to crops. Additionally, small farmworker communities where lower-income, BIPOC live would be especially vulnerable as the drought will affect drinking water supply and alternate sources of water are scarce when wells go dry. These communities don’t have the means or infrastructure to keep drilling further down for water if necessary.

The drought just highlights the water inequity issue that Californians constantly face. At the end of the day, corporations can afford to pay fines and do as they please at the expense of the regular people who don’t have that same luxury.

This summer, as we continue to be bombarded by news about the drought, it is important to remember that while our state was vulnerable, corporations continued to exploit our natural resources for profit. Individual climate action is always significant, but an essential piece of solving the climate crisis is holding corporations accountable for the role they play in causing this crisis and exacerbating it.

Posted on June 24, 2021 in ECOVOTE BLOG.

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