In recent months, Nestlé – the 27th largest corporation in the world employing over 275,000 people and making over 65 billion dollars a year – has been under increasing scrutiny for their bottling of municipal water for immense profits. This is the company whose chairman, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, believes that water should be privatized because “access to water is not a public right,” nor is it a human right. Contrary to the “extreme viewpoint… that water is a public right,” Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe believes that water, “like any other foodstuff… should have a market value.” This is the same company who deprived a small village in Pakistan of their potable water in order to sell them clean bottled water.
In Sacramento, CA Nestlé used over 50 million gallons in 2014 paying between $37,000 to $68,000 for the water it pumps from the sources used by local residents then turned around and sold the same water for over $2.1 million as Arrowhead Water or Pure Life, a profit of about ten thousand percent.
Although the quantity of water is comparatively small, approximately one percent of the gross annual consumption of water in the City of Sacramento, Nestlé must consider the entire product lifecycle. The amount of waste and high costs to the environment resulting from bottling tap water then selling it without consideration for what happens to those bottles needs to change.
At worst, Nestlé should not only be charged a rate commensurate with the quantity of water removed from the aquifer, putting some of that incredible profit to use paying for water conservation efforts, but as with BP’s cleanup of the Gulf of Mexico, so too should Nestlé be held accountable for the waste created by the distribution of so many plastic bottles.
At best, in this time of severe and on-going drought, the needs of current and future generations need to be taken into consideration. As Mauro Oliveira mentioned during a recent protest at Nestlé Waters North America in Sacramento, “this whole idea of bottling water goes against Indigenous Peoples’ concept of water is sacred. The 20,000-year-old water in aquifers (one of the sources of water for the City of Sacramento) belongs to the last generation on earth.”
A company with such immense profits and influence around the world needs to ensure it can continue making profits into the future. What better way to do so than put it’s incredible coffers to work ensuring such a resource as precious as water is not depleted nor polluted but is sustainably managed for generations to come.