California’s new normal is intense droughts, intense rain, and intense wildfires driven by this cycle. Fragile ecosystems are caught between these excesses. In the San Bernadino National Forest, just two hours east of Los Angeles, Nestlé is exploiting our water resources.
Corporations are exploiting our collective heritage for private profit.
For decades Nestlé, a Swiss multinational corporation, has been taking millions of dollars of water for free. This water is pulled out of aquifers in Southern California, bottled, and sold.
State regulators told the company that they had no legal right to take any of this water. But, they were contradicted by federal regulators. Instead of stopping the practice outright, they only asked that Nestlé pay for a permit. This permit costs $2,000 a year.
What is Nestlé buying for $2,000 a year? 45 million gallons of water.
That’s roughly 68 Olympic sized pools a year, or 1.3 pools a week. 45 million gallons of water would cost you $121,500.
But even that may be an underestimate. California regulators estimate that Nestlé may have taken more than 11 million gallons above what their permit allows. An additional 16 Olympic sized pools of stolen water!
If not for Nestlé, this water would be feeding the rich ecosystem of the national forest. Instead of keeping natural cycles in balance, Federal authorities are selling out our ecosystems and feeding a pollution stream that effects the entire globe.
This water is sold as Arrowhead brand bottled water, which only makes the problem worse. Plastic water bottles can take up to 450 years to degrade. They don’t break down in a safe way either.
Plastic bottles, and other plastic waste, that make their way into the ocean slowly breakdown into smaller and smaller pieces. These tiny bits of plastic have been strewn across the oceans. This pollution is so pervasive that it is found at depths of 1000 feet below the surface.
Every major ocean has at least one garbage patch. These are floating islands of garbage: plastic, Styrofoam, metal, and other refuse from our consumption. Trapped in currents known as gyres, trash acummulates and forms massive floating dumps.
To explain this far too simply: sun light and ocean water breakdown the trash in to smaller and smaller pieces. Marine life then eats these microplastics. Sometimes it’s the largest animals in the ocean, like whales, that suck it up as they eat krill and smaller food sources. Sometimes it is the smallest life in the sea that take it in only to be eaten by larger ocean dwellers, sending the waste up the food chain.
For a better explanation check out this video by Kurzgesagt:
What can we do to stop Nestlé?
Unfortunately, our options are limited at the state level. While the California Water Resources Control Board is working to expose the true damage, they can’t regulate federal land. The state of California can’t override decisions made at the federal level.
That is, until we have a real Green New Deal. Once we create a federal and state framework that is focused on sustainability we can create better federal regulations, return control of resources to California, and effectively regulate companies that destroy the environment for profit.
The original New Deal wasn’t just one massive federal law. It was composed of many bills at the federal level augmented by state legislation. Real climate action will require even more coordination. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal gives us the larger framework, but it is up to the state of California to build that reality.
Water resources are finite and precious. Water is life and we must protect it.