Nestle vs. Oregon: Battle Heats Up Over Columbia River Gorge
Nestle, the world's top-selling bottled water company, has been trying to win the right to tap between 100 and 166 million gallons of water from Oregon's Columbia River Gorge annually, and wants to justify it as environmentally sound by simply replacing it with municipal well water.
Oregon citizens are angry. More than 4,300 comments have poured in decrying the company's plan. Local residents and environmentalists are concerned about the quantity and quality of municipal water supplies, as well as about populations of endangered fish in the Columbia River, such as the Idaho Sockeye. The WSJ explains how Nestle, which owns Poland Spring, Perrier, Pure Life, and Arrowhead and for years found bottled water a lucrative business—it claimed 38% of the $10 billion U.S. bottled-water market last year—is working to respond to those concerns:
Nestlé is running a one-year test here to raise 700 rainbow trout in a tank filled with well water. Worried that activists might sabotage the test, Nestlé put the 1,700-gallon tank under lock and added security cameras. Officials from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife monitor the fish's progress and are now autopsying the three that have died so far.
Residents are not won over. They're writing letters, some of which are being delivered to the offices of both gubernatorial candidates because the Oregon Water Resources Department won't decide whether to allow the deal to go through or not until the new governor is in office.
Julia DeGraw, Northwest Organizer for Food & Water Watch said, "Oregon's water belongs to all of us and is too precious to sell off to a multinational bottling company with a track record of leaving some of the communities it enters in worse economic and environmental shape than it found them."
Relevant stat of the day: according to Food & Water Watch, 17.6 million barrels of oil are consumed every year to manufacture the bottles alone (not counting transport or any other areas of energy consumption), in order to meet bottled water demand in the U.S.