Nestlé Says Obtaining A Permit To Steal Water Violates Its Rights

*The following is an opinion column by R Muse*

It is nearly certain that most Americans understand the meaning of the phrase, “nothing is free,” except maybe for some necessities of human life such as air, sunshine and water. Obviously food is not free and increasingly water is not free either; there is a nominal cost to operate water delivery systems and few Americans complain about paying to have their own water piped to their homes. However, a giant international corporation rejects the idea of having to pay, or apply for a permit, to take Americans’ water, bottle it, and sell it back to thirsty Americans and considers the concept of obtaining a permit a violation of its rights.

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Despite California suffering what is being called a severe historical drought where farmers, big business, and individual citizens are going to great lengths to conserve the peoples’ precious commodity, international food giant Nestlé continues robbing Californians’ water without remuneration or a permit. In just one instance, Nestlé has been taking millions and millions of gallons of water annually for three decades virtually free of charge from the San Bernardino National Forest and many areas up and down California.

Of course, California is not the sole victim of  Nestlé’s contempt for human beings’ need for water. According to Corporate Watch the corporate giant has a long and sordid history of showing blatant disregard for the human race’s fundamental need for water. The corporation is notorious for barging into struggling rural areas and extracting groundwater to sell back to the people in bottles and in the process  “completely destroying the water supply without any compensation” to the victims.  In fact Nestlé’s lawyers have been wildly successful in “actually making residents of rural areas in the United States foot the bill” for the water Nestlé extracts, bottles, and sells back to them.

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The outrage of Nestlé’s illegal water theft and rejection of adhering to the permitting process inspired several groups to file suit to force the Forest Service to stop Nestlé’s free ride and illegal theft of Californians’ water. Nestlé Waters North America alleges that a proposed Forest Service’s action for renewing the company’s permit to pipe water out of a remote canyon in the San Bernardino Mountains violates the international corporation’s long-established water rights.

Although the lawsuit was filed back in October, there may be no decision for months, and if Nestlé has its way there will never be a decision. The multi-billion dollar corporation’s legal army is unloading a barrage of procedural motions and unnecessary legal briefs to prevent having “its water rights” violated. Besides holding up a decision with preposterous delay tactics, the corporation is hoping to burden the plaintiffs with crushing legal fees to stop the lawsuit from going forward.

While the Forest Service’s outdated and absurd rules allows Nestlé to rape and pillage California water without a permit until it is renewed, regardless it’s been expired for thirty years, because of the severity of the drought the agency has been cracking down on other water users in and around the national forests; but not Nestlé.

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For example, a few years ago when private citizens’ permits came up for renewal, dozens of cabin owners were ordered to stop drawing water from a local creek because there is a drought and their permits were expired. Nestlé has never faced those kinds of restrictions and they have no intent to be subjected to them at any time, neither now nor in the future.

According to the world’s largest international food corporation, that California water belongs to Nestlé by rights. In fact, Nestlé has embraced a twisted religious right argument that any requirement to operate is a violation of its fundamental rights. In Nestlé’s case, the corporation claims the government requirement to even apply for a permit is a gross violation of its right to steal California citizens’ water. That’s right. The same international corporation that claims no human being has a fundamental right to water claims the federal requirement to have a permit is a violation of its corporate right to that water, and they are not about to take being “violated” by being required to apply for and obtain a permit.

It was acceptable for Nestlé to take water without oversight, monitoring, or obtaining a permit, or adhere to environmental laws until concerned citizens notified the Forest Service that the corporation had no right (by virtue of a permit) to steal their water; particularly during a drought and they wanted it stopped. Nestlé, for its part, claims that the action proposed by the Forest Service; applying for a permit, monitoring usage, and adhering to environmental laws would disrupt and violate its “established water rights.”

None of the water Nestlé is profiting from belongs to them; on even a fundamental level the international corporation has “no established water rights.” The hypocrites running the corporation have no shame in stating that human beings have no basic right to water, and yet they have the temerity to claim that even applying for a permit to take Californians’ water violates their ‘established water rights.”

Access to water is, beyond dispute, a fundamental right and necessity for human life; it is not a necessity for a giant corporation’s profits. It is also not a violation of Nestlé’s water rights to apply for or obtain a permit to take California’s water any more than it is to be subject to monitoring and ecological studies on the impact of draining streams, aquifers, and creeks. Nestlé may think that Californians will succumb to legal maneuvers and give up their battle to preserve what precious little water they have left, but that would be an error. California may be a liberal state, but its people are, besides being thirsty and angry, not above taking matters into their own hands and showing Nestlé exactly what it means to be violated.