Lawsuit: Nestle Drawing Millions of Gallons of California Water on Expired Permit

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A completely dry Strawberry Creek in Idyllwild. A lawsuit has been filed over Nestle's diversion of water from a branch of the creek. (Credit: Christine Cotter/Los Angeles Times)

Environmental groups sued the U.S. Forest Service on Tuesday, alleging that the agency has allowed Nestle Waters to draw water from a creek in the San Bernardino Mountains under a permit that expired more than 25 years ago.

The company, owner of the Arrowhead bottled water brand, has drawn millions of gallons from the west fork of Strawberry Creek under a permit it apparently acquired in 2002.

At a time when residents have been asked to cut back water use during the record-setting drought, the diversion for commercial bottling to consumers once again has put Nestle in the cross hairs of the state’s water squabbles. The company faces scrutiny over its water withdrawal activities elsewhere in the state.

“We Californians have dramatically reduced our water use over the past year in the face of an historic drought, but Nestle has refused to step up and do its part,” said Michael O’Heaney, executive director of the Story of Stuff Project, a plaintiff in the suit filed in U.S. District Court. “Until the impact of Nestle’s operation is properly reviewed, the Forest Service must turn off the spigot.”

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