The complaints accused Nestle of diverting water without a valid right and unreasonably using water.
On Tuesday, California State Water Resources Control Board (Water Boards) ruled that the beverage corporate giant Nestle had no legal right to the water it had diverted and bottled from mountain springs for over 100 years.
The bottled water is sold under Arrowhead, a household brand whose label reads "Since 1894." Nestle sold the bottled water business in 2021 and Nestle Waters North America began operating under the new name BlueTriton Brands later.
Water Boards ordered the company to stop drawing water for bottling from most of its water-collection sites in the San Bernardino Mountains by Nov. 1. The company has 30 days to appeal to the board.
Investigation began in 2015 when the state board received a number of complaints against Nestle Waters North America from individuals and organizations as well as a petition signed by hundreds of people, according to the agency's documents.
We did it!— The Story of Stuff Project (@storyofstuff) September 20, 2023
Yesterday, California ordered bottling company BlueTriton to STOP taking water from the San Bernardino National Forest.
For decades, Nestlé and BlueTriton have been taking this public water, bottling it in plastic and selling it for profit. But not anymore. �� pic.twitter.com/egyhPk3PWx
The complaints accuse Nestle of diverting water without a valid right and unreasonably using water, among other allegations. After eight years of investigation, including dozens of hearings, the board determined that BlueTriton does not have permission to use the water.
The company disagreed, saying its predecessors had been doing so for more than 125 years. It also argued that it takes water that is underground and that the state water board does not have the authority to regulate groundwater.
BlueTriton Brands said it would sue to block the order. Nestle had a federal "special use" permit allowing it to use its pipeline and other water infrastructure in the national forest. But the permit does not grant use of water.
Environmental groups also accused the company of taking water from an important creek that is a habitat for wildlife and helps protect the area from wildfires. The water right, or the legal underpinning to use water, has become controversial in California in recent years as the state suffers from frequent and extreme droughts and wildfires.
Many Native American Tribes and environmental justice organizations allege California favors early white settlers at the expense of indigenous people and the environment.
Last month, U.S. federal environmental authorities decided to investigate whether California State Water Resources Control Board discriminated against Native Americans and other people of color by failing to protect the water quality of San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.