Imagine having to pay for every bottle of drinking water. Water, a product that’s currently a free resource, might soon come with price tags. For some companies, it already has. Nestlé, a leading nutrition, health and wellness company is well on its way to bottle and sell fresh drinking water, depriving communities surrounding its factory of the very same.
Chairman of the bottle water giant, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe had a vastly different opinion on the matter. “We have a major water management crisis,” Peter Brabeck-Letmathe had told the CNBC on the sidelines of the Credit Suisse Asian Investment Conference earlier this month. “We are destroying 20 percent more water for human consumption than there is available.”
In addition to reducing the company’s water consumption over the past few years, Nestle says it has been working alongside governments to find better ways to ‘use water sustainably’.
This sustainable project envisioned by Nestle has been in troubled waters for sometimes. Last week, a coalition of environmentalists, Native Americans and other concerned groups threatened to stage a protest in the city of Sacramento for what it describes as a deliberate means by Nestle ‘to bottle city water to sell back to the public at a big profit’.
The Nestlé Water Bottling Plant in Sacramento was the target of a major press conference last week by a water coalition that claims the company is draining up to 80 million gallons of water a year from Sacramento aquifers during the drought. The coalition called on Nestlé to pay rates commensurate with their enormous profit, or voluntarily close down.
According to the coalition, “Nestlé pays only 65 cents for each 470 gallons it pumps out of the ground – the same rate as an average residential water user. But the company can turn the area’s water around, and sell it back to Sacramento at mammoth profits,”
The city of Sacramento is not the only country to be plagued by water crisis spurred on by the Nestle. In February this year, the British Colombia Government conceded to allow Nestle to harvest precious fresh water.
According to the new regulation, it will allow companies to pay a small amount to access the province’s ground water. Under the new Water Sustainability Act, starting in 2016, corporations will be charged $2.25 for every one million liters of water they extract.
“They think that $2.25 is a good value for a million liters. It doesn’t seem quite right to me,” NDP environment critic Spencer Chandra-Herbert had told The Early Edition’s Rick Cluff. “I think we need better value for it so people can actually then use that money for environmental protection or water conservation.”
Meanwhile, an online petition opposing the new regulations has received more than 40,000 signatures, saying companies like Nestlé Waters Canada — which operates a bottling plant in Hope, B.C. — should pay more to access the province’s resources.
British Columbia will finally start charging companies like Nestlé for taking its groundwater and bottling it to sell at a profit. It will be charging $2.25 per million liters.
Under this new pricing structure Nestlé and corporations like it will be able to buy up Canada’s water for next to nothing.
“At a time when water is in short supply globally, it is outrageous that Nestlé can draw limitless amounts of Canada’s natural resources to sell for a huge profit. Nestlé’s chairman says that “extremist” NGOs are responsible for the idea that water is a human right, and that water should have a market price — apparently he thinks that the “market price” for him is $2.25.” – the petition states.
Pakistan is dubbed as Nestlé’s test market for its Pure Life product. In a documentary film, Bottled Life: Nestlé’s Business with Water, by Swiss journalist Res Gehringer it shows that the while Swiss corporation refused to allow the journalist access to its production plant in Pakistan, groundwater levels in the villages surrounding it had fallen dramatically.
“The village fountain water is nothing more than foul-smelling sludge,” he says in the documentary – Bottled Life. In the village, Bhati Dilwan, a former village councilor says children are being sickened by filthy water. He says it’s bottled water-maker Nestle’, which dug a deep well that is depriving locals of potable water. “The water is not only very dirty, but the water level sank from 100 to 300 to 400 feet,” Dilwan says on Global Research.
Nestlé is currently the leading supplier of the world’s bottled water, including such brands as Perrier and San Pellegrino, and has been criticized by activists for human rights violations throughout the world. For example, Food and Water Watch and other organizations blasted Nestlé’s ‘Human Rights Impact Assessment” in December 2013 as a “public relations stunt.’
“The failure to examine Nestlé’s track record on the human right to water is not surprising given recent statements by its chair Peter Brabeck challenging the human right to water,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch. She noted that the company famously declared at the 2000 World Water Forum in the Netherlands that water should be defined as a need—not as a human right.
Charging for water can be a lightning rod for political criticism amid concerns that the poor will lose access to a necessity.
“Water is a human right. I fully agree with that,” Brabeck-Letmathe had said, noting that the around 30 liters a day needed for basic living should be provided without charge to those who can’t afford it. But that amount is only accounts for around 1.5 percent of the fresh water destroyed daily, he said.
He’s more concerned about the other 98.5 percent. “I don’t think it’s a human right to fill up a swimming pool. I don’t think it’s a human right to wash cars. I don’t think it’s a human right to water a golf course,” he said.