I wrote a post a little more than a year ago about California’s drought and the potential impact of bottled water. This was followed by a statement minimizing the impact of water bottling from someone at the International Bottled Water Association; one year later, the drought has worsened to the point where California is imposing water use restrictions, and picketers are attempting to shut down a Nestlé bottling plant in Sacramento.
For the record, that Nestlé plant is using an estimated 80 million gallons each year, which is roughly 0.0007% of California’s total water use, and 0.007% of what is used just to farm almonds. That is to say, for every bottle of water Nestlé produces, California dumps 3-4 bathtubs worth on almonds. I won’t defend water bottling–every wasteful use of water seems open to opposition during such a drought–but maybe those protesters would do better to shut down almond farms.
If you’re like me, and you’ve ever played SimCity, you might be wondering about an apparently obvious solution to California’s crisis. What about desalinization? I mean, it is a coastal state, right? There’s a basically limitless supply of water right next door, in the form of the world’s largest ocean–and of course the water cycle means that, while water once used may not return to the particular mountains or streams from which it was drawn, it will eventually return to the oceans.
A thing happened in the comment section on a previous post to which I’d like to call a bit more attention, for two reasons: One, because I may be guilty of being a needless alarmist, and Two, because I think there are still some valid questions pending.
Earlier this month I posted an entry in which I speculated about the impact of industrial water bottling on California’s dire water shortage. I raised alarm at the fact that California does not disclose the amount of groundwater going into bottles to the public or to its legislators, and wondered what impact that might have.
Two weeks later, I received a comment from Chris Hogan at the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA), which I unfortunately did not notice for almost a week. Sorry, Chris. I present that comment here, unedited in its entirety: Continue Reading
California is running out of water. So is the entire American Southwest, for that matter, but the crisis in California is in particularly dire straits. A number of farms in the state are already out of water, and officials estimate drinking water will run out in many communities in the next 60 to 100 days. This is Grapes of Wrath territory, and forecasts say it will only go on, and likely worsen, over the coming years.
What’s shocking to me is that California lawmakers, who monitor and regulate water use very strictly, have no idea how many gallons are leaving its aquifers in the form of bottled water. At least, not as far as I can find.
As of 2008 there were more than 100 water bottling operations in California. The State’s Department of Health requires them to report how much they are removing from groundwater sources, but this information is not made available to the public or to lawmakers in the state. A proposed 2008 law would have changed this, but it was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger, who cited a state budget crisis that would only allow him to approve bills of the “highest priority.” One has to wonder how anything could be higher priority than access to drinking water. Continue Reading