Nestle and U.S. Forest Service’s PR problem over water permit

Nestle and U.S. Forest Service’s PR problem over water permit

Multiple environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service on Tuesday for letting Nestle siphon water from the San Bernardino National Forest for the past 27 years with an expired permit.   


The plaintiffs in this case believe that draining the water for all these years has been potentially damaging to the forest’s habitat. Environmental lawyer Rachel Doughty stated that the U.S. Forest Service is more focused on “letting Nestle take water,” than managing the public land. To try and repair the bad PR they’re facing, the U.S. Forest Service is working on a new permit.    


John Heil, press officer for the U.S. Forest Service, said in an email that they “will develop a proposed action for the issuance of a new Nestle permit which the public will then be invited to review and comment on before next steps are taken.”


Nestle isn’t a part of the lawsuit, but the company hasn’t been immune to negative PR involving the siphoning of water for their Arrowhead bottled water with an expired permit. California has been experiencing one of the worst droughts the state has ever seen. The drought has been harmful to forests across California, yet Nestle bottled about 68,000 gallons of water every day from the national forest in 2014.        


Protester against Nestle bottling drought stricken California water

A demonstrator holds a sign during a march to protest against Nestle bottling water during the California drought, outside a Nestle Arrowhead water bottling plant in Los Angeles, May 20, 2015. Despite the current California drought, the total volume of bottled water consumed in the United States hit 11 billion gallons last year, up more than 7 percent from 2013. That translated into an average of 34 gallons per person, according to the International Bottled Water Association, citing data from the Beverage Marketing Corp. (REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon)

Protesters gathered 500,000 signatures in May to get Nestle to halt their bottled water operation in California during the drought. Rather than temporarily shutting down their water bottling factories, like Starbucks did with Ethos water, Nestle continued production. Despite the PR problems Nestle has faced this year, they still have no plans to put a stop to their siphoning of the national forest’s water while they hold an expired permit.


Retired U.S. Forest Service biologist Steve Loe believes that the best solution for preserving the forest is to stop taking its water while there’s a drought. “I want to see them stop taking any water until the groundwater starts to recover from the drought, and that they only start taking water when there’s a new permit that protects the national forest,” said Loe.


Should Nestle be allowed to take water from the national forest? Was it the right decision for them to continue their bottled water operation in California during the drought? Leave a comment or talk to me on Twitter @Karbowski_Devon.


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  • Livzabel19. Oct, 2015

    So, no solutions or ideas on the subject? Just a short overview? I could have found that anywhere. I would figure with a PR page, you would discuss the elements and factors of the PR crisis and list ideas of how to handle or solve them. Kind of a disappointment.

    • Devon Karbowski21. Oct, 2015

      Thanks for your comment, I will definitely take your notes into consideration on my next PR piece! Nestle’s situation is a little tricky though. Part of their PR problem would go away if they would take their water bottling business out of California during the drought. However, as the article shows, they refused to do so, despite 500,000 people asking them to. As the article also shows, part of their PR problem is that they are taking water from the national forest, but have yet to stop. The national forest is a huge supplier of Nestle’s water in California, so even if it would help their PR to stop, it seems like they don’t want to stop, or they would lose water/money. Thanks again for the comment.

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