(The man on the right with the big grin is Nestle Waters North America’s CEO Tim Brown. When he was asked point blank if Nestlé Waters would stop bottling water in California to address public opinion as well as environmental concerns, he responded: “Absolutely not.”)
Preface: Why do companies continue to get away with so much? …and why do we continue to let them?
Nestle continues extracting massive amounts of groundwater in California during the record drought. Nestle is exploiting California’s diminishing fresh water supply for profit, regardless of the cost. Nestle Waters produces more than 15 brands of bottled waters and tea, including Arrowhead, Poland Springs, and Zephyrhills.
A forest service official who let Nestle drain drought-stricken California’s water supply now works for Nestle as a paid consultant. This certainly points to corruption and is yet another example of the strange, untoward relationship between the companies being regulated and the people who are supposed to regulate them.
The man now employed by Nestle, Gene Zimmerman, did Nestle’s bidding for many years. Zimmerman headed the San Bernardino National Forest as forest supervisor from 1991 to 2005. Nestle would essentially make requests that were more like demands and Zimmerman would comply. He was then handsomely rewarded with a lucrative job at Nestle.
Nestle’s permit to draw water had actually expired in 1988 and their claim that they adhered to the FDA’s “spring” requirements was bogus as Nestle taps water from four wells at one particular site that were drilled horizontally into the mountain. Nestle needed to “work around” these messy little details and they received a lot of help from Zimmerman.
In December 2002, David Palais of Nestle emailed Zimmerman to ask if he would “sign a statement or Declaration basically acknowledging that you know about our water collection facilities, that we are not doing anything ‘clandestinely’ . . . that we have and continue to act within the spirit and intent of the (special use permit) and that we both acknowledge that Arrowhead is in the process of renewing the (permit).”
Zimmerman obliged and signed a letter on January 9, 2003 to Palais stating that although the 1976 permit“expired on Aug. 2, 1988, I have allowed Arrowhead’s occupancy of National Forest land to continue until the permit can be re-issued, based on its continued adherence to the terms of that permit, and its payment of the required annual fee.”
Zimmerman said the Nestle permit wasn’t renewed during his tenure for various reasons, among them a lack of sufficient funding and staff. Zimmerman, who is now retired, said he has done occasional paid consulting work for Nestle during the past four or five years. He isn’t the only former government official who has taken on a role with Nestle. In fact, former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, who oversaw the Forest Service from 2001 to 2005, now sits on Nestle’s board of directors.
Also interesting is that Nestlé has been perversely defiant. When you consider that one of their competitors, Starbucks, which bottles the Ethos brand of water, has stopped production in California due to public concern over the drought, Nestle’s belligerence is especially angering.
Watch the below Nestle video in which Zimmerman tries to justify Nestle stealing California’s water for profit. It is pretty maddening.