Nestlé doesn’t have rights to water it takes in California, state says

One of Nestle's pipelines carries water across the San Bernardino National Forest.

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – California water officials on Friday issued a draft order telling Nestlé to "cease and desist" taking much of the millions of gallons of water it pipes out of the San Bernardino National Forest to sell as Arrowhead brand bottled water.

The order, which must be approved by the California Water Resources Control Board, caps years of regulatory probes and a public outcry over the company’s water pipeline in the San Bernardino Mountains, where opponents argue that siphoning away water harms spring-fed Strawberry Creek and the wildlife that depends on it.

Nestlé’s use of water from the national forest 70 miles east of Los Angeles generated opposition and protests from area residents – and a lawsuit by environmental groups –after a 2015 investigation by The Palm Springs Desert Sun, part of the USA TODAY Network, revealed that the U.S. Forest Service was allowing the company to pipe water from the national forest using a permit with a 1988 expiration date, and with no review of the environmental impacts during the state's last severe drought.

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State water officials opened a probe into Nestle's water rights in 2015. In 2017, they warned the giant water bottler that it might not hold rights for much of the water they take. Nestle disputed those conclusions at the time, and on Friday vowed to fight the recommended order.

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