Environmental and human rights activists, holding plastic “torches” and “pitchforks,” formed human barricades at both entrances to the Nestlé Waters bottling plant in Sacramento at 5:00 a.m. on Friday, March 20, effectively shutting down the company's operations for the day.
Members of the “Crunch Nestlé Alliance" shouted out a number of chants, including ”We got to fight for our right to water,” “Nestlé, Stop It, Water Not For Profit," and “¿Agua Para Quien? Para Nuestra Gente.”
The protesters stayed until about 1 pm, but there were no arrests.
Representatives of the alliance said the company is draining up to 80 million gallons of water a year from Sacramento aquifers during a record drought. They claim Sacramento City Hall has made it possible through a "corporate welfare giveaway."
“This corporate welfare giveaway is an outrage and warrants a major investigation,” Coalition spokesperson Andy Conn said. “For more than five months we have requested data on Nestlé water use. City Hall has not complied with our request, or given any indication that it will. Sacramentans deserve to know how their money is being spent and what they’re getting for it. In this case, they’re getting ripped off.”
Lola Ellis of 99 Rise Sacramento, who spoke on the bullhorn at the protest, said, “Nestlé’s bottling of water in Sacramento is unsustainable in the current state of drought. We really don’t’ know how much water they are taking from the aquifer and that is a scary thing.”
“The water needs to be used for the local community. If there is not enough water for the local community, the Nestlé corporation should not be making a profit,” she emphasized.
The coalition protested what they call Nestlé's “virtually unlimited use of water” while Sacramentans (like other Californians) who use a mere 7 to 10 percent of total water used in the State of California, have had severe restrictions and limitations forced upon them.
The coalition is calling on Nestlé to pay rates commensurate with its enormous profit, or voluntarily close down.
“Nestlé pays only 65 cents for each 470 gallons it pumps out of the ground – the same rate as an average residential water user. But the company can turn the area's water around, and sell it back to Sacramento at mammoth profit,” according to a news release from the activists.
They said Sacramento officials have refused attempts to obtain details of Nestlé's water use. Coalition members have addressed the Sacramento City Council and requested that Nestlé either pay a commercial rate under a two tier level, or pay a tax on its profit.
A call to the Sacramento City Department of Utilities about the details of Nestlés water use hadn’t been returned as of press time.
But according to Fox 40 News, “In 2014 Nestlé says it used 50 million gallons from the Sacramento Municipal Water Supply, which they say is a fraction of one percent of total water demand within the city of Sacramento.” (http://fox40.com/...)
A statement issued by the company in October 2014 regarding a previous protest in front of the plant said:
"In Sacramento, Nestlé Waters North America purchases and pays the standard metered rate for municipal water, which is delivered through the municipal pipe system. We are not ranked among the top 10 water users in Sacramento as we use about two thousandths of one percent (0.0016%) of Sacramento’s total water demand. Our company is subject to any restrictions, drought or otherwise, imposed on all light industrial or business customers by the city of Sacramento and we comply with those restrictions." (http://www.scribd.com/...)
Bob Saunders, also with the Crunch Nestlé Alliance, responded, "Nestlé can claim any amount of water they want, but we haven’t seen any documentation of the amount of water they’re using. We do know they’re allowed to take up to 80 million gallons per year.”
Mauro Oliveira, known as "Red Sun," showed up at the protest with his children, including Rise, Aren and Mahai'a, and connected the battle of local activists against Nestlé with the struggle of Indian Tribes, family farmers, grassroots environmental activists and fishermen to stop fracking, the Shasta Dam raise, and Governor Jerry Brown’s Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the twin tunnels, the most environmentally destructive public works project in California history.
“This whole idea of bottling water goes against Indigenous Peoples' concept of water is sacred," said Oliveira. "The 20,000-year-old water in aquifers belongs to the last generation on earth. We don’t have the right to tap into this water.”
“The Governor said we should conserve, but millions of gallons of fracking waste are being reinjected into the aquifer in California. The Governor talks out of both sides of his mouth. Polluting our water supplies is a violation of human rights," said Oliveira.
Read more at Dailykos.com.