Comment Period Begins for Controversial Water Exchange That Would Bring Nestlé Water Bottling Plant into the Gorge

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Erin Greenfield at (202) 683-2457 or
news[at]fwwatch[dot]org

Comment Period Begins for Controversial Water Exchange That Would Bring Nestlé Water Bottling Plant into the Gorge

PORTLAND, Ore. - Today marks the start of a 30-day public comment period on a
controversial water exchange that would allow Nestlé to bottle and sell
water currently being used by endangered fish from the Columbia River
Gorge. Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD) is considering an
application from Cascade Locks and the Oregon Department of Fish and
Wildlife (ODFW) for a water exchange that would allow the town to sell
ODFW's spring water to Nestlé to bottle.

"Citizens from the Gorge and across Oregon are deeply concerned about
the social and environmental impacts of selling our water to a
multinational corporation," said Lori Ann Burd, Restore Mt. Hood
Campaign Manager and Staff Attorney for Bark. "This water comes onto
state land from Mt. Hood National Forest, so it really belongs to all of
us, and Nestlé's plan is not an appropriate use of this precious
resource."

Earlier this summer, a United States Geological Service (USGS) report
that found ground water levels are falling across the entire Columbia
Plateau, a region that includes Cascade Locks. According to the USGS,
groundwater levels in the Eastern Columbia Plateau have steeply declined
over the past 25 years in 80 percent of the nearly 500 wells measured.
Although the sampling did not include Cascade Locks' groundwater, this
study suggests a shrinking supply of water, a resource once thought to
be inexhaustible in the region.

"In an area that has always been water-rich, this USGS report is a
wake-up call that the abundant supply of water Oregonians have taken for
granted is diminishing," said Julia DeGraw, the Northwest organizer
with Food & Water Watch and Keep Nestlé Out of the Gorge. "We should
not sell our finite water supply to a corporation with a long history
as a bad actor."

Nestlé has asked ODFW to approve an agreement that would exchange
part of ODFW's water at Oxbow Springs with an equivalent amount of well
water from the city of Cascade Locks. Nestlé would then buy both the
city's well and spring water to bottle under its Pure Life and Arrowhead
labels, pumping an average of 167 million gallons of water out of
Cascade Locks every year. While the financial details of the deal have
not yet been disclosed, Nestlé has paid an average of $.00225 per gallon
where it has brokered similar deals in other areas. A gallon of
Nestlé's spring water sold in single-serve plastic jugs sells for $5.30.

The lack of facts on the ground is a serious concern for Keep Nestlé
out of the Gorge, a coalition of 15 environmental and social justice
organizations. "How can we know what a sustainable withdrawal of water
is when we don't have a map or adequate baseline data on the city of
Cascade Locks' groundwater?" said DeGraw. "Approving it would be an
irresponsible move that could cause serious damage to Cascade Locks'
municipal drinking water source. OWRD should deny this application. "

Clean, cold water from the spring is crucial for endangered fish
living both inside the fish hatchery and in nearby Herman Creek, but
scientists have not yet determined whether or not they would be
adversely impacted by this proposal. In addition, the water bottling
facility would introduce up to 200 truck trips a day to rural roads,
increasing traffic and smog in the Gorge and potentially affecting
tourism in Cascade Locks.

Public comments on the Nestlé water exchange should be sent to the
Water Resources Department; Attn: Transfer Section, 725 Summer St. NE,
Suite A, Salem, OR 97301-1266, Transfer Number 11109. Public comments
will close on Sept. 30, after which point it will decide whether or not
to approve the exchange.

The Keep Nestlé Out of the Gorge coalition members include Food &
Water Watch, Alliance for Democracy, Bark, Environment Oregon, Trout
Unlimited, Columbia Group Sierra Club and Columbia Riverkeeper. More
details about the Cascade Locks water exchange can be found at http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/NoNestleinOR or on the Keep Nestlé Out of the Gorge Facebook page.

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Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.

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