A few weeks ago we shared with readers a lawsuit filed in Connecticut against Nestle Waters North America, Inc. alleging that the water they marketed as Poland ‘Natural Spring Water’ was actually just bottled groundwater…the same water that runs through the taps of many American households.
Now a new investigation from Bloomberg Businessweek reveals how large water bottling companies choose their plant locations based not on the steady supply of pristine, natural drinking water, as their labels and other marketing campaigns would lead you to believe, but based on which economically depressed municipalities offer up the most tax breaks and have the most lax water laws.
As an example, even in the drought stricken state of California, Bloomberg notes that Nestle was able to strike a sweetheart 20-year supply agreement with the U.S. Forest Service to pay roughly $0.000001 for the water in each bottle that consumers blindly drop a couple bucks to purchase.
But it illuminates how Nestlé has come to dominate a controversial industry, spring by spring, often going into economically depressed municipalities with the promise of jobs and new infrastructure in exchange for tax breaks and access to a resource that’s scarce for millions. Where Nestlé encounters grass-roots resistance against its industrial-strength guzzling, it deploys lawyers; where it’s welcome, it can push the limits of that hospitality, sometimes with the acquiescence of state and local governments that are too cash-strapped or inept to say no. There are the usual costs of doing business, including transportation, infrastructure, and salaries. But Nestlé pays little for the product it bottles—sometimes a municipal rate and other times just a nominal extraction fee. In Michigan, it’s $200.