Nestle vs. California Drought 2015: Lies, Greed, and Corporate Profiteering

Claire Bernish
September 4, 2015

(ANTIMEDIA) Arrowhead Springs, CA — “If Nestle wasn’t so powerful, I Strongly believe the Forest Service would [err] in the side of stream protection. We (everyone, both scientists and others) know enough to say removing water right now can’t help but make the drought emergency worse for those streams that are already stressed to the max.

“And yet, in all of this, water continues to run in their pipes, robbing it from this very critical watershed. And not just any environment. Very sad.”  — Retired Forest Service biologist with over 40 years on the job, in a statement via email.

An ongoing investigation by the Anti-Media — sparked by Ian James’ series in the Desert Sun — into Nestle’s sourcing its bottled water from Arrowhead Springs, (located in San Bernardino National Forest) using a permit that expired over a quarter century ago, just made a rather stunning discovery.

“And, by the way, these aren’t springs as you and I envision a spring bubbling up out of the ground — they have horizontal wells that go into the mountainside, sometimes as far as 500 feet. And those horizontal pipes, of course, create a void; and water always seeks the path of least resistance, so the water seeps into their horizontal pipes and then drains out of the side of the mountain,” explained Gary Earney — who retired after decades with the U.S. Forest Service, where he was in charge of granting special-use permits — in a phone call with the Anti-Media.

California water is an unnecessarily complex topic that was further complicated when the continuing drought forced the governor to institute a system of restrictions and fines. Intended to ensure no individual or business would waste the precious resource, the restrictions and fines actually stratified and delineated the wealth gap — those who can afford to do so simply pay whatever fine is necessary to lessen the impact restrictions would create on daily life.

You know . . . what drought?

Previous articles in the series:

Avoid Saying “It’s Just Water” on Your Trip to California

Of critical importance to circumstances surrounding Nestle’s ostensible draw and collection of spring water — brought to retail bearing the label: Arrowhead 100% Mountain Spring Water — is the fact that the bottles bear the company’s claim its water is sourced from a natural “spring.”

To wit, compare the legal definitions for bottled “spring” and “well” water, under the Code of Federal Regulations: Title 21 § 165.110 (a)(2)(vi)(viii):

  • (vi) The name of water derived from an underground formation from which water flows naturally to the surface of the earth may be “spring water.” Spring water shall be collected only at the spring or through a bore hole tapping the underground formation feeding the spring. There shall be a natural force causing the water to flow to the surface through a natural orifice. The location of the spring shall be identified. Spring water collected with the use of an external force shall be from the same underground stratum as the spring, as shown by a measurable hydraulic connection using a hydrogeologically valid method between the bore hole and the natural spring, and shall have all the physical properties, before treatment, and be of the same composition and quality, as the water that flows naturally to the surface of the earth. If spring water is collected with the use of an external force, water must continue to flow naturally to the surface of the earth through the spring’s natural orifice. Plants shall demonstrate, on request, to appropriate regulatory officials, using a hydrogeologically valid method, that an appropriate hydraulic connection exists between the natural orifice of the spring and the bore hole.
  • (viii) The name of water from a hole bored, drilled, or otherwise constructed in the ground which taps the water of an aquifer may be “well water.”

Click here to read the entire document

See where this is heading?

No, It Isn’t Sping Water, and the Inspector General Has Known That for Years

By these definitions, and in the context of Earney’s description, an emphatically pertinent question is raised: Is the water Nestle draws from what is ostensibly the site of Arrowhead Springs, really what the company claims it is on the bottle — is it actually “spring” water, at all?

arrowhead-spring-waterConversation with Earney continued:

Question:By any stretch of the imagination, can what they’re [Nestle] doing be described as pulling spring water, in your estimation?”


Earney:Actually, in my estimate, no — and the Office of the Inspector General, which did an inspection of that use a few years back, determined that Nestle was not taking spring water, they were taking groundwater.”


During the call, he also verified water at the site of the springs is not, in fact, coming naturally to the surface — nor could it, given Nestle’s extensive piping infrastructure.

It’s important to note, as Earney emphasized, that the Forest Service has nothing to do with the laws and regulations governing water rights in the state. Because the supposed spring is located on property the Forest Service is tasked with maintaining, the agency deals purely with the infrastructure Nestle uses, and its maintenance and impact on the property.

About Those Water Rights

Nestle has claimed for years its rights to Arrowhead Springs date back to the turn of the last century — however, not-so-strangely, deed transfers marking Arrowhead Springs’ supposed migration through a string of dissolving and forming Nestle companies have been notoriously difficult to track down. A subject of contention for many, Nestle’s loud claims to historic rights are beginning to sound hollow when requests to view relevant documentation are simply shrugged off.

Could a deed from 1929 offer insight into Nestle’s reluctance to be transparent and forthcoming?

Clearly delineated in the text of this deed are rights to subterranean water at the site — but the only property denoting springs is Indian Springs.

Incidentally, as reported in The Pontiac Tribune, both the first and second articles in this series about the Nestle scandal were upvoted to occupy positions near the top of Reddit‘s front page. However — just as the second article seemed to reach its peak popularity — Reddit seemingly extended a corporate arm when the board’s moderators censored the article by removing it from the page entirely. Eventually, the reason for its banishment was said to be due to an assessment the article amounted to an opinion piece. Coincidentally, the article gained a spot at the top of the prized Reddit front page before anyone found this to be a problem.

In the Nestle vs. California drought debate, what is your opinion on water rights?

This is the third in our series of investigations into Nestle’s role in extracting massive amounts of groundwater in California during the record drought. The fourth in this series will include exclusive information from sources with knowledge of Nestle’s bottling operations who have reached out to Anti-Media in recent weeks. Make sure you don’t miss the rest of this series! Subscribe to our newsletter here.

This article (Nestle vs. California Drought 2015: Lies, Greed, and Corporate Profiteering) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Claire Bernish and Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, email

Claire Bernish joined Anti-Media as an independent journalist in May of 2015. Her topics of interest include social justice, police brutality, exposing the truth behind propaganda, and general government accountability. Born in North Carolina, she now lives in Ohio. Learn more about Bernish here!