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Oxbow Springs water would have be bottled under Nestle's Arrowhead brand. (Photo: Nathan Rupert/flickr/cc)

People Power Just Trumped Corporate Power: Oregon County Rejects Nestle Water-Grab

'This is really a resounding victory for everyone who cares about protecting not only our water supply, but water supplies around the world'

Andrea Germanos

Voters in one Oregon county on Tuesday approved a ban on commercial bottled water production, stopping a years-long effort by Swiss transnational Nestle to sell over 100 million gallons of water a year from the Columbia River Gorge.

"This is really a resounding victory for everyone who cares about protecting not only our water supply, but water supplies around the world," said Aurora del Val with Local Water Alliance, which filed the ballot measure petition.

Though opponents of the proposed plant in Cascade Locks in Hood River County were vastly outspent, Measure 14-55 easily passed—rougly 69 percent to 31 percent. 

According to Julia DeGraw, an organizer for national watchdog organization Food and Water Watch, which helped lead the opposition, voters were very aware of the risks of putting corporate control over the precious resource, despite the purported 50 jobs the plant would provide the job-scarce town. "When you talk to them about something as crucial as their water, which is necessary for an agricultural economy, right after they have a drought, there is not enough misinformation the opposition can throw at voters to make them buy it," she said.

Photo: Keep Nestle Out of the Gorge
As Hood River business owner Michael Barthmus previously explained, "most people understand that water is a resource and basic human need, and not a commodity to be exploited. Shipping water outside of our county seems like poor stewardship, especially during a time of shortage and droughts. Our families, farms and the fish in our rivers should be our top priority," he added.

Oregon Live offers background:

Nestlé for seven years has sought a way to bottle water from Oxbow Springs, which gurgles out of hillside just outside the Columbia River Gorge town of Cascade Locks.

The company hopes to build a $50 million bottling plant at the town's port, where 100 million gallons annually of Oxbow Springs water would be bottled under the Arrowhead brand. Additional Cascade Locks municipal water would be sold under the company's Pure Life brand.

As the Guardian reported ahead of the vote, some residents said

politicians did not hold full public hearings, accepted trips from Nestlé to California, and presented negotiations between Nestlé and the state authorities as a done deal that was now out of ordinary people’s hands.

Local Water Alliance is applauding the results as a "landslide victory," as the group had seen the measure's implications beyond Nestle's plan. "Protecting our water supply is not about stopping just one project. It's about setting the precedent that our water and the future of our community are so important and so intertwined that we are not willing to sell them off," the group's website states. 

Nestle's attempted water-grab in Hood River County was the subject of a 7-minute doucmentary relased in March by the Story of Stuff Project, Food & Water Watch, and the Local Water Alliance, which you can see below:


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