The Swiss company Nestlé has been reaping in billions by bottling public water it pays nothing or almost nothing for. It’s dominated the industry by going into economically depressed areas with lax water laws.
The world’s largest bottled water company, Nestlé has been taking millions of gallons of free water from the San Bernardino National Forest in southern California, for its Arrowhead brand. With 87 locations in 33 countries, the company bottles and sells several other spring water brands, such as Deer Park, Ice Mountain and Poland Spring. It relies on sites in California, Colorado and Canada for its Arrowhead label, distributed across the West Coast.
In Michigan, Nestlé has been allowed to pump 200 gallons of fresh water every minute out of the state’s reserves. The company has claimed it is a public water utility and wanted to increase extraction to 400 gallons a minute. The Michigan department of environment, Great Lakes and Energy issued a permit last year in part because it determined Nestlé provided an essential public service and was not damaging the local water table.
The Michigan state charges Nestle $200 per year for the right to pump 1.1 million gallons of public water a day.
In a huge blow Nestlé Michigan’s second-highest court just ruled that the company’s commercial water-bottling operation is “not an essential public service” or a public water supply.
Nestlé now wants to take more than a million gallons of water each day from Ginnie Springs, a popular destination in north Florida for swimming, canoeing and tubing.
Nestlé boldly claims “We consider that Nestlé Waters has a role to play in implementing the right to water.”
Mega-banks and investing powerhouses such as Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, UBS, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, Macquarie Bank, Barclays Bank, the Blackstone Group, Allianz, and HSBC Bank, are also dominating control over water. In 2008, Goldman Sachs called water “the petroleum for the next century”.
Goldman Sachs bought Veolia’s UK water utility business and invested in China Water and Drinks Inc., which supplies purified water to name-brand vendors like Coca-Cola.
“Water as an asset class will, in my view, become eventually the single most important physical-commodity based asset class, dwarfing oil, copper, agricultural commodities and precious metals” – Citigroup’s top economist Willem Buitler.