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Nestle Bottling California Water Without Legal Permits

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Nestle is coming under fire from California water officials for allegedly bottling and selling millions of gallons of water more than their permit allows. 

A new report from the California State Water Board says that every year from 1947 to 2015, Nestle bottled an average of 62.6 million gallons of water from the San Bernardino spring. After reviewing the company's permits, the board determined Nestle only had the right to bottle 8.5 million gallons each year, according to NPR. 

"While Nestle may be able to claim a valid basis of right to some water in Strawberry Canyon, a significant portion of the water currently diverted by Nestle appears to be diverted without a valid basis of right," the report said, according to NPR.

In its report, the board suggested Nestle apply for a new permit and presented a timeline for the company to comply with the ruling. 

The water bottled from the San Bernardino spring is sold under Nestle's Arrowhead brand. 

During a two-year investigation, the board evaluated Nestle's argument that the company holds rights to the spring water via a 150-year-old claim by a man who owned property near the spring. 

The man, David Noble Smith, claimed rights to the spring water on the basis that he got there first. California law does consider the order in which claims were staked when determining water rights, according to The Independent. 

Smith later built the Arrowhead Springs Hotel on his property. In the century that followed, Nestle obtained the rights to the spring water from the hotel.

Nestle seemed to take the ruling well, focusing on the board's admission that the company does have a claim to a large volume of water from the spring. 

"We look forward to cooperating with the [State Water Resources Control Board] 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 company said in a statement, according to The Independent.

The investigation into Nestle's permit was set off after a 2015 report in the Desert Sun which found that Nestle had been operating on an expired permit and that no state agency was tracking how much water was bottled in California or the potential environmental effects. 

When the Desert Sun's report was published, California was in the midst of a drought, causing increased public concern about the use of the state's water resources.

Sources: NPR, The Independent, Desert Sun / Featured Image: Steven Depolo/Flickr / Embedded Images: Brendan C/Flickr, PxHere

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