Nestle has been bottling and selling water it has no right to in drought-stricken California, state says

Demonstrators protest against Nestle bottling water during the California drought, outside a Nestle Arrowhead water bottling plant in Los Angeles

Nestlé has been bottling and selling water that it does not have the legal right to use, officials in California have concluded.

Fights over water are a constant in California, exacerbated when drought years make the supply especially scarce. Since 2015, officials with the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) had received numerous complaints that Nestlé was claiming water from the San Bernardino National Forest to which it had no right and then selling it under its Arrowhead brand.

Because California allocates water rights in part based on who got there first, getting to the bottom of those allegations required a deep dive into history. Nestlé cited a 150-year-old claim by a man named David Noble Smith whose property later became the site of the Arrowhead Springs Hotel, for instance.

The company’s materials tout its history in California and its commitment to “sourcing water exclusively from carefully selected mountain springs,” which “ensures that every drop is as crystal clear as the water revered by Native Americans for its healing powers”.

“Westerners have savoured the natural goodness of Arrowhead water since bottling began in the 1890s,” the company’s website proclaims.

After combing through decades worth of permitting information, the water board declared last week that the company had no basis for much of the water it was draining from the Strawberry Canyon watershed. It said the company’s invocation of David Noble Smith was “not valid for Nestlé’s current appropriative diversion and use of water from the San Bernardino National Forest”.

“A significant portion of the water currently diverted by Nestlé appears to be diverted without a valid basis of right,” the report said.

Ultimately, the board found Nestlé had the right to about 26 acre-feet a year, or about 8.5m gallons, but had averaged some 192 acre-feet a year, or about 62m gallons.

The board’s report isn’t the same as an enforceable order. It issued a series of recommendations for Nestlé in a letter to the company, including suggesting the company “cease any unauthorised diversions”, submit a compliance plan and secure a permit for diverting water beyond its allowance.

In a statement, Nestlé said it was pleased the water board had vindicated its claim to “a significant amount of the water in Strawberry Canyon”.

“We look forward to cooperating with the SWRCB during the review process and to providing the necessary documents to supplement the SWRCB’s report, including producing information requested from over a century ago, to the extent that it is available,” the statement said.

While California law does not prohibit private companies like Nestlé from bottling the state’s water, the company is a regular target for environmentalists, Native Americans and other activists.



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An ultrafiltration system consists of extremely fine membrane sections, in which antibiotics-resistant bacteria are removed from the sewage. Credit: HyReKA

GERMANY, NOV 8, 2018 — Multi-resistant bacteria have learned to survive treatments with antibiotics by developing defense mechanisms. Not all of them are dangerous for human beings. Still, these bacteria are able to transmit their resistance genes to disease-causing pathogens. In this way, the number of resistant germs increases in the environment.

“When the bacteria spread, people have contact with them more often. If we do not take action against the spread, the number of effective antibiotics will decrease and, in the end, there will be few substances only or no substances with which we can fight a disease,” says Professor Thomas Schwartz of KIT’s Institute of Functional Interfaces (IFG).

The microbiologist and his team study water bodies for the abundance and spread of clinically relevant antibiotics resistances and bacteria that may be dangerous to humans with aweakened immune system, small children, and elderly people. “With the sewage from hospitals, nursing homes, domestic areas, slaughterhouses, and agriculture, resistant bacteria enter sewage treatment plants. Here, we detected bacteria not only at the inlets, but also at the outlets,” Schwartz says. Hence, current sewage treatment methods remove part of the bacteria only, while the remainder is discharged into rivers and creeks together with the processed water.

For this reason, the scientists test and assess various methods for the removal of these critical pathogens in sewage treatment plants: an ultrafiltration plant, an ozone and UV treatment, a combination of both, and activated charcoal treatment. “In the case of ultrafiltration, water flows through extremely fine membrane sections and the amount of antibiotics-resistant bacteria can be reduced to such an extent that they can hardly be detected anymore. Ozone treatment, also in combination with UV radiation, enables a smaller, but still promising reduction of germs. For activated charcoal, we found no efficient change, i.e. no reduction,” says the microbiologist.

Within HyReKA, the scientists plan to develop the ultrafiltration system to maturity and to optimize ozone and UV treatment to enhance reduction efficiency. In addition, the scientists of KIT set up an assessment concept for the individual methods, such that study parameters can also be applied to other sewage treatment methods. “In this way, we might provide hospitals, nursing homes or agricultural facilities, where the risk of resistant bacteria can also be suspected to be high, with these technologies to reduce the load acting on municipal sewage treatment plants,” Schwartz says.

HyReKA is the German acronym of “Biologically and Hygenico-medical Relevance and Control of Antiobiotics-resistant Pathogens in Clinical, Agricultural, and Municipal Sewage and their Importance in Raw Waters.”


SOURCE: Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

Nearly 1,300 day cares in Oregon have missed a deadline to submit drinking water test results to state officials to make sure children aren’t at risk of lead poisoning.

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WASHINGTON, DC, NOV 5, 2018 — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is inviting 39 projects in 16 states and D.C. to apply for Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loans. Together, the selected borrowers will receive WIFIA loans totaling approximately $5 billion to help finance over $10 billion in water infrastructure investments and create up to 155,000 jobs.

“Through WIFIA, EPA is playing an integral role in President Trump’s efforts to improve and upgrade our nation’s water infrastructure and ensure all Americans have access to clean and safe water,” said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “This year, EPA will help finance over $10 billion in water infrastructure investments that will create up to 155,000 jobs, upgrade aging infrastructure, reduce lead exposure, and improve the lives of millions of Americans across the country.”

EPA’s WIFIA loans will allow large and small communities across the country to implement projects to address two national water priorities – providing for clean and safe drinking water including reducing exposure to lead and other contaminants and addressing aging water infrastructure.

EPA received 62 letters of interest from both public and private entities in response to the 2018 WIFIA Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA).

Of the selected projects, 12 projects will reduce lead or other drinking water contaminants and 37 will address aging infrastructure. 8 prospective borrowers submitted letters of interest in response to the 2017 Notice of Funding Availability, resubmitted them for 2018, and are now invited to proceed in the 2018 funding round. To learn more about the 39 projects that are invited to apply, visit


2018 Election: Voters Reject Stricter Rules for Oil, Gas, and Mining

Water protections and spending were at stake in state and local ballot initiatives.


Proposition 112, which would have increased the distance between new oil and gas wells and homes, schools, and water sources, was rejected in Colorado. Photo © J. Carl Ganter/Circle of Blue

By Brett Walton, Circle of Blue 

Voters in three western states rejected citizen-driven ballot measures that would have placed stricter rules on the fossil fuel and mining industries in order to protect water and wildlife, while Washington state voters opposed a carbon tax that would have provided funds for water and ecosystem projects.

Losses by green groups in Alaska, Colorado, and Montana contributed to a 2018 election in which water-related policies and funding were on the ballot in at least a dozen local and state initiatives.

In two other high-profile decisions, voters in Baltimore backed a first-ever municipal ban on privatization of a city water utility while Californians uncharacteristically rejected an $8.9 billion bond for water projects.

In western states, extractive industries, which spent tens of millions of dollars to oppose the measures, avoided more restrictive permitting rules designed to minimize harm to water sources.

In Alaska, Ballot Measure 1 aimed to defend fish habitat from damage by new development, which includes not only fossil fuel projects but any construction that would disturb watersheds that nurture salmon and other anadromous fish. The measure, which would have expanded state permitting authority, lost by a margin of 64 percent to 36 percent.

The oil and gas industry were targets in Colorado, where Proposition 112 would have pushed new fossil fuel infrastructure farther from schools, homes, businesses, and water sources. The proposal would have lengthened setback distances for developments not on federally managed public land from 500 feet to 2,500 feet, and allowed local jurisdictions to establish even tougher limits. Voters rejected the proposal by a 57-43 margin.

In Montana, supporters of Initiative 186 wanted to ensure that new hardrock mines would not require perpetual water treatment after closure. The initiative is losing 57 percent to 43 percent, with three-quarters of precincts fully reporting results.

Water Infrastructure Initiatives

A second water theme of the midterms was infrastructure funding.

Baltimore became the first U.S. city to ban the sale or lease of its municipal water system when a large majority of voters approved Question 3, by a margin of 77 percent to 23 percent.

Two small bonds — $47 million in Rhode Island for water systems and environmental cleanup and $30 million in Maine for wastewater treatment — passed easily.

California voters, usually keen to support water projects, bucked recent history in rejecting Proposition 3, an $8.9 billion bond. The margin was 52 percent to 48 percent. The editorial boards of the state’s largest newspapers opposed the expenditure, arguing that beneficiaries of the projects should pay, not the general taxpayer.

Two local measures in California performed better. Eighty-two percent of San Francisco voters approved a $425 million bond to repair the century-old Embarcadero sea wall so that it can better withstand earthquakes and rising seas.

In Los Angeles County, a parcel tax on paved surfaces passed with two-thirds voting in favor. Expected to raise $300 million per year, the tax will pay for stormwater projects in the nation’s most populous county.

Meanwhile, three-quarters of Houston voters reaffirmed support of a fund to pay for stormwater projects and street repairs. The ReBuild Houston program was established eight years ago, but the Texas Supreme Court ordered it back to the ballot with wording that clarified the source of funding, which is a fee levied on the amount of paved surface.

Old battles were resurrected elsewhere, too. In an echo of 2016, when a similar measure was on the ballot, Washington state voters rejected a carbon tax by a margin of 56 to 44. A quarter of the revenue from the tax — estimated at $2.3 billion over the first five years — would have been directed toward clean water and forest restoration.

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FAILURE TO ACT: Economic Impact of Current Investment Trends in Water & Wastewater Infrastructure

Screen Shot 2018-10-07 at 7.14.56 PMEXECUTIVE SUMMARY Of all the infrastructure types, water is the most fundamental to life, and is irreplaceable for drinking, cooking, and bathing. Farms in many regions cannot grow crops without irrigation. Government offices, hospitals, restaurants, hotels, and other commercial establishments cannot operate without clean water. Moreover, many industries—food and chemical manufacturing and power plants, for example—could not operate without the clean water that is a component of finished products or that is used for industrial processes or cooling. Drinking-water systems collect source water from rivers and lakes, remove pollutants, and distribute safe water. Wastewater systems collect used water and sewage, remove contaminants, and discharge clean water back into the nation’s rivers and lakes for future use. Wet weather investments, such as sanitary sewer overflows, prevent various types of pollutants like sewage, heavy metals, or fertilizer from lawns from ever reaching the waterways.

However, the delivery of water in the United States is decentralized and strained. Nearly 170,000 public drinking-water systems are located across the U.S. Of these systems, 54,000 are community water systems that collectively serve more than 264 million people. The remaining 114,000 are non-community water systems, such as those for campgrounds and schools. Significantly, more than half of public drinkingwater systems serve fewer than 500 people.

As the U.S. population has increased, the percentage served by public water systems has also increased. Each year new water lines are constructed to connect more distant dwellers to centralized systems, continuing to add users to aging systems. Although new pipes are being added to expand service areas, drinking-water systems degrade over time, with the useful life of component parts ranging from 15 to 95 years.

Particularly in the country’s older cities, much of the drinking-water infrastructure is old and in need of replacement. Failures in drinking-water infrastructure can result in water disruptions, impediments to emergency response, and damage to other types of essential infrastructure. In extreme situations caused by failing infrastructure or drought, water shortages may result in unsanitary conditions, increasing the likelihood of public health issues.

The United States has far fewer public wastewater systems than drinking-water systems— approximately 14,780 wastewater treatment facilities and 19,739 wastewater pipe systems as of 2008.1 In 2002, 98 percent of publicly owned treatment systems were municipally owned.2 Although access to centralized treatment systems is widespread, the condition of many of these systems is also poor, with aging pipes and inadequate capacity leading to the discharge of an estimated 900 billion gallons of untreated sewage each year.3

The EPA estimated the cost of the capital investment that is required to maintain and upgrade drinking-water and wastewater treatment systems across the U.S. in 2010 as $91 billion. However, only $36 billion of this $91 billion needed was funded, leaving a capital funding gap of nearly $55 billion.

Water infrastructure in the United States is clearly aging, and investment is not able to keep up with the need. This study’s findings indicate that investment needs will continue to escalate. As shown in Table 1, if current trends persist, the investment required will amount to $126 billion by 2020, and the anticipated capital funding gap will be $84 billion. Moreover, by 2040, the needs Failure to Act: The Economic Impact of Current Investment Trends in Water and Wastewater Treatment Infrastructure 5 for capital investment will amount to $195 billion and the funding gap will have escalated to $144 billion, unless strategies to address the gap are implemented in the intervening years to alter these trends.

Effects on Expenses

Even with increased conservation and costeffective development of other efficiency methods, the growing gap between capital needs to maintain drinking-water and wastewater treatment infrastructure and investments to meet those needs will likely result in unreliable water service and inadequate wastewater treatment. Because capital spending has not been keeping pace with needs, the resulting gap will only widen through 2040. As a result, pipes will leak, the construction of the new facilities required to meet stringent environmental standards will be delayed, addressing the gap will become increasingly more expensive, and waters will be polluted. This analysis assumes that the mounting costs to businesses and households will take the form of:

★ Doing nothing and living with water shortages, and higher rates (rationing through price increases); or major outlays by businesses and households, including expenditures incurred by moving to where infrastructure is still reliable, purchasing and installing equipment to conserve water or recycle water, and increasing reliance on selfsupplied water and/or wastewater treatment (i.e., installing individual wells and septic waste systems when municipal facilities and services are not available options), and

★ Incurring increased medical costs to address increases in water-borne illnesses due to unreliable delivery and wastewater treatment services.

These responses to failing public infrastructure will vary by location, household characteristics, and size and type of business. Expenditures due to moving, or from installing and operating new capital equipment for “self-supply,” are estimated for households, commercial establishments, and manufacturers. These costs are estimated at $35,000 per household and $500,000 to $1 million for businesses, depending on size and water requirement, and are amortized over 20 years. Although these expenditures are based on the costs associated with self-supply, the costs are used to represent outlays by some households and businesses in response to unreliable water delivery and wastewater treatment services. This study does not assume that companies or households move outside of the multistate region where they are now located.

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However, movement across regional boundaries and relocation of businesses outside of the U.S. is certainly a response that may be triggered by decreasing reliability of public water and sewer systems. Households and businesses that do not self-supply are assumed to absorb the higher costs that are a consequence of disruptions in water delivery and wastewater treatment due to worsening infrastructure. The assumption for this category is that these households and businesses will pay the $84 billion associated with the 2020 capital gap ($144 billion by 2040) in terms of higher rate costs over and above the baseline projected rates for water and wastewater treatment.

Water-borne illnesses will exact a price in additional household medical expenditures and labor productivity due to sick time used. The EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have tracked the 30-year incidence of water-borne illnesses across the U.S., categorized the type of illnesses, and developed a monetary burden for those cases. That burden is distributed partially to households (29 percent), as out-of-pocket fees for doctor or emergency room visits, and other illness-related expenses leaving less for a household to spend on other purchases, and mainly to employers (71 percent), due to lost labor productivity resulting from absenteeism. The monetary burden from contamination affecting the public-provision systems over the historical interval was $255 million.

Overall Summary of Costs

The sum of estimated expenses to households and businesses due to unreliable water delivery and wastewater treatment is shown in Table 2. By 2020, the total costs to businesses due to unreliable infrastructure will be $147 billion while that number will be $59 billion for households. The total impact of increased costs and drop in income will reduce the standard of living for families by almost $900 per year by 2020.

Effects on the National Economy

By 2020, the predicted deficit for sustaining water delivery and wastewater treatment infrastructure will be $84 billion. This may lead to $206 billion in increased costs for businesses and households between now and 2020. In a worst case scenario, the U.S. will lose nearly 700,000 jobs by 2020. Unless the infrastructure deficit is addressed by 2040, 1.4 million jobs will be at risk in addition to what is otherwise anticipated for that year.

The impacts of these infrastructure-related job losses will be spread throughout the economy in low-wage, middle-wage and high-wage jobs. In 2020, almost 500,000 jobs will be threatened in sectors that have been traditional employers of people without extensive formal educations or of entry-level workers.4 Conversely, in generally accepted high-end sectors of the economy, 184,000 jobs will be at risk.5

The impacts on jobs are a result of costs to businesses and households managing unreliable water delivery and wastewater treatment services. As shown in Table 3, between now and 2020, the cumulative loss in business sales will be $734 billion and the cumulative loss to the nation’s economy will be $416 billion in GDP. Impacts are expected to continue to worsen. In the year 2040 alone, the impact will be $481 billion in lost business sales and $252 billion in lost GDP.6 Moreover, the situation is expected to worsen as the gap between needs and investment continues to grow over time. Average annual losses in GDP are estimated to be $42 billion from 2011 to 2020 and $185 million from 2021 to 2040.7

The Role of Sustainable Practices

In all likelihood, businesses and households will be forced to adjust to unreliable water delivery and wastewater treatment service by strengthening sustainable practices employed in production and daily water use. The solutions already being put forward and implemented in the United States and abroad include voluntary limitations or imposed regulations governing the demand for water, as well as technologies that recycle water for industrial and residential purposes (e.g., using recycled shower water for watering lawns). These types of policies have reduced the demand for water and wastewater, and, therefore have lessened the impacts on existing infrastructure.

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The most recent Clean Watersheds Needs Survey (EPA 2010) incorporates new technologies and approaches highlighted for wastewater and stormwater: advanced treatment, reclaimed wastewater, and green infrastructure. In contrast, the most recent Drinking Water Needs Survey (EPA 2009) does not include new technologies and approaches, such as separate potable and nonpotable water and increasing efficiencies.

American businesses and households have been using water more efficiently, and they can continue to improve their efficiency during the coming decades. As shown in Figure 1, though the U.S. population has continued to grow steadily since the mid-1970s, total water use has been level. Overall, U.S. per capita water use peaked in the mid-1970s, with current levels being the lowest since the 1950s. This trend is due to increases in the efficiency of industrial and agricultural water use and is reflected in an increase in the economic productivity of water. These trends in industrial water use can be explained by a number of factors. For example, several water-intensive industries, such as primary metal manufacturing and paper manufacturing, have declined in the U.S., thereby reducing water withdrawals. Other industries have faced more stringent water quality standards under the Clean Water Act, which may have led to the implementation of technologies or practices that save water.8

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Nationally, water use in the home has remained stable since the 1980s. Efficiency and conservation efforts have reduced per capita household consumption in some states and regions. Domestic water use has become more efficient through the use of new technologies such as water-efficient toilets that use one-third of the water of older toilets. In addition, new technologies and approaches may reduce future water infrastructure needs. For example, many cities have recently adopted green infrastructure approaches to wet weather overflow management. Green roofs, grassy swales, and rain gardens, for example, are used to capture and reuse rain to mimic natural water systems. Such techniques often provide financial savings to communities.

Nevertheless, demand management and sustainable practices cannot solve the problem alone. These efforts are countered by increasing populations in hot and arid regions of the country—including the Southwest, Rocky Mountains, and Far West—where there is greater domestic demand for outdoor water use.9 In this study, a second scenario was run, which assumed that there would be a general adjustment by businesses and households as the capital gap worsened.

In this scenario, negative economic impacts mount for about 25 years—roughly 2011–35, though at a slower pace than the earlier scenario—and then abate as increasing numbers of households and businesses adjust to the reality of deficient infrastructure, including net losses of 538,000 jobs by 2020 and 615,000 jobs by 2040. In this scenario, job losses peak at 800,000 to 830,000 in the years 2030–32.

In addition, GDP would be expected to fall by $65 billion in 2020 and $115 billion in 2040. The lowest points in the decline in GDP would be in 2029–38, when losses would exceed $120 billion annually. After-tax personal income losses under this scenario are $87 billion in 2020 and $141 billion in 2040, which represents a rebound from $156 billion to $160 billion in annual losses in the years 2030–34.

The Objectives and Limits of This Study

The purpose of this study is limited to presenting the economic consequences of the continuing underinvestment in America’s water, wastewater, and wet weather management systems. It does not address the availability or shortages of water as a natural resource or the cost of developing and harnessing new water supplies. Joining water delivery and wastewater treatment infrastructure with the costs of developing new water supplies is an appropriate and important subject for a more extensive follow-up study. This report assumes that the current regulatory environment will remain in place and no changes to current regulations will occur. Finally, this work is not intended to propose or imply prescriptive policy changes. However, many organizations and interest groups, including ASCE, continue to engage with policy makers at all levels of government to seek solutions to the nation’s infrastructure problems.


Well-maintained public drinking water and wastewater infrastructure is critical for public health, strong businesses, and clean rivers and aquifers. Up to this moment American households and businesses have never had to contemplate how much they are willing to pay for water if it becomes hard to obtain.

This report documents that capital spending has not been keeping pace with needs for water infrastructure, and if these trends continue, the resulting gap will only widen through 2040. As a result, pipes will leak, new facilities required to meet stringent environmental goals will be delayed, O&M will become more expensive, and waters will be polluted.

There are multiple ways to partially offset these negative consequences. Possible preventive measures include spending more on existing technologies, investing to develop new technologies and then implementing them, and changing patterns in where and how we live. All these solutions involve costs. Separately or in combination, these solutions will require actions on national, regional, or private levels, and will not occur automatically.



Study Finds Microplastics In 93% Of Bottled Water

20180315_Plastic_WaterLowest and highest number of plastic particles found per liter of bottled water (location & brand)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that it is launching a review of the potential risks of plastic particles in drinking water, after a study found tiny pieces of plastic in more than 90% of samples from the world’s most popular bottled water brands.

That analysis was conducted by the State University of New York in Fredonia as part of a project from the U.S.-based journalism organization Orb Media, and it involved 259 bottles of water from 11 brands across nine countries. They were bought in China, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Lebanon, Kenya, Thailand and the U.S.

Of all the bottles tested, only 17 were found to be free of plastic. On average, each liter sold contained 325 pieces of microplastic, including polypropylene, nylon, and polyethylene terephthalate. In one case, a bottle of Nestlé Pure Life contained more tahn 10,000 pieces of microplastic. High levels were also found in bottles of Bisleri (5,230), Gerolsteiner (5,160) and Aqua (4,713).

According to WHO officials, there is no evidence that the consumption of microplastic fibers has an impact on human health, but it remains an emerging area of concern.


Data journalist covering technological, societal and media topics