Water Wars: Oregon Vs. Nestle

More articles on the controversy surrounding bottled water can be found here!

Bottled water is a huge industry, and a profitable one.  Last year it netted $10 billion in the US, but there are signs that the industry is slowing.  Restaurants have turned away from pricey bottled water, and consumers have returned to tap water to save money.  Nestlé is a huge player in the sector:  its bevy of brands, which includes Perrier and Poland Spring, captures about 40% of the market.  But recently Nestlé’s sales have taken a hit.

One of Nestlé’s brands, Arrowhead, has made a huge move in Oregon.  The company wants to tap at least 100 million gallons of water from a new spring near the state’s iconic Mount Hood.  The new water source has the potential to reverse Nestlé’s sagging sales.  But there’s a problem:  more than a few Oregonians are furious.

Nestlé’s plans to tap water from the Columbia River Gorge, and replace it with municipal well water, has infuriated residents.  Over 4300 public comments have flowed to the Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRC), which will not make a decision until after next week’s gubernatorial election.

Opponents of the plan point to the quality and quantity of the municipal water supply’s future in this region.  They are also worried about endangered fish populations, including the sockeye salmon.  So would the replacement with one source of water with another solve the problem?  Nestlé is currently conducting a one-year test to monitor the effects of trout that live in well water.  The huge tank is locked, filmed by security cameras, and the state’s Fish and Wildlife staff are evaluating the cause of death of any fish.

Nestlé retorts that its investment will give the town of Cascade Locks a huge tax dividend.  The company has worked on the improvement of its carbon footprint by cutting the amount of miles its delivery trucks drive.  Nestlé believes that the Cascade Locks location is a good fit: the water source here is far enough from urban pollutants, but close enough so that delivery is cost effective.  Only one-sixth of Cascade Locks’ water supply will be diverted–and the company will more than adequately pay the town for this resource.

The debate rages on whether bottled water is really a threat to the nation’s aquifers.  Some say bottled water’s environmental cost is not worth the ease and convenience.  Others respond that the amount of water and waste is relatively small.

One question remains, however.  If the water is going to be reverse-osmosis-ified, filtered, treated, purified, or whatever the process may be . . .  Why not just take it from the municipal wells, make the arrangement with the town, and move on?

Leon Kaye has written for Triple Pundit since 2010 . He is the founder and editor of GreenGoPost.com. Based in Fresno, California, he is a business writer and strategic communications specialist. His work is has also appeared on The Guardian's Sustainable Business site and on Inhabitat and Earth911. His focus is making the business case for sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Contact him at leon@greengopost.com. You can also reach out via Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost).