Last year, news broke that Nestlé, the largest bottled water producer in the world, had been extracting water from the drought-stricken San Bernardino National Forest on a permit that was supposed to expire in 1988 — and hadn’t been re-evaluated by the U.S. Forest Service in nearly 40 years!
Now, the Forest Service is proposing to renew Nestlé’s permit for another five years, even as drought conditions persists in the western U.S.1
That’s unacceptable. But our pressure can make a difference. The latest Forest Service plan comes after intense public pressure on the agency, including petitions from more than 190,000 CREDO activists. In a major step forward, the proposal triggers a re-evaluation of the impact of Nestlé’s water withdrawals under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). We have to make sure the review is as comprehensive as possible, which will show that Nestlé’s water extraction must be put to a stop.
Nestlé has been taking a self-reported 25 million gallons a year from the forest’s Strawberry Creek — which is only at 10 percent of its 90—year average level.2 As the water level drops over the summer, Nestlé’s continued withdrawals pose a risk to the creek ecosystem by making water levels even lower.
Incredibly, Nestlé pays only $524 (yes, five hundred and twenty four dollars!) each year to draw out the tens of millions of gallons it sells to the public under the Arrowhead Mountain label.
But this isn’t just about Nestlé or the San Bernardino National Forest — it’s a symbol of a much deeper problem in federal lands management that continues to prioritize corporate profits over protecting and preserving public resources.
Sally Jewell, secretary of the Department of the Interior, recently laid out a vision for re-evaluating our federal lands management to prioritize protection and preservation.3 But the U.S. Forest Service, which is under the Department of Agriculture, controls a full 25 percent of federal lands.
Pushing for the Forest Service to stop rubber-stamping Nestlé’s corporate water profiteering sends an important signal in the fight to preserve our public lands and resources.
Thank you speaking out.
Elijah Zarlin, Director of Climate Campaigns
CREDO Action from Working Assets
Add your name:
- “Agency proposes 5-year Nestle bottled water permit,” Desert Sun News, 3/18/16.
- “After years, review of Nestle water permit to begin,” Desert Sun News, 8/24/15.
- “Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is calling for ‘a major course correction’ in the way the nation conserves its public lands,” Associated Press, 4/19/16.
The questions is: What happens when a military superpower and 1,5 billion desperate people start running out of water?
November 24, 2014
Water conflict is a term describing a conflict between countries, states, or groups over an access to water resources. The United Nations recognizes that water disputes result from opposing interests of water users, public or private.
A wide range of water conflicts appear throughout history, though rarely are traditional wars waged over water alone. Instead, water has historically been a source of tension and a factor in conflicts that start for other reasons. However, water conflicts arise for several reasons, including territorial disputes, a fight for resources, and strategic advantage. A comprehensive online database of water-related conflicts—the Water Conflict Chronology—has been developed by the Pacific Institute. This database lists violence over water going back nearly 5,000 years.
These conflicts occur over both freshwater and saltwater, and both between and within nations. However, conflicts occur mostly over freshwater; because freshwater resources are necessary, yet limited, they are the center of water disputes arising out of need for potable water and irrigation. As freshwater is a vital, yet unevenly distributed natural resource, its availability often impacts the living and economic conditions of a country or region. The lack of cost-effective water supply options in areas like the Middle East, among other elements of water crises can put severe pressures on all water users, whether corporate, government, or individual, leading to tension, and possibly aggression. Recent humanitarian catastrophes, such as the Rwandan Genocide or the war in Sudanese Darfur, have been linked back to water conflicts.
A recent report “Water Cooperation for a Secure World” published by Strategic Foresight Group concludes that active water cooperation between countries reduces the risk of war. This conclusion is reached after examining trans-boundary water relations in over 200 shared river basins in 148 countries, though as noted below, a growing number of water conflicts are sub-national.
Why Climate Change Has Not Led to Conflict
Perhaps this chapter from THE WORLD’S WATER Volume 8 The Biennial Report on Freshwater Resources will be of interest (you should have heard of this book – The World’s Water is the most comprehensive and up-to-to date source of information and analysis on freshwater resources.)
The Syrian Conflict and the Role of Water
‘Starting in 2006, however, and lasting into 2011, Syria experienced a multi-season extreme drought and agricultural failures, described by Shahrzad Mohtadi as the “worst long-term drought and most severe set of crop failures since agricultural civilizations began in the Fertile Crescent many millennia ago” (Mohtadi 2012).
Robert Worth of the New York Times noted that this drought contributed to a series of social and economic dislocations (Worth 2010). The United Nations estimated that by 2011, the drought was affecting 2–3 million people, with 1 million driven into food insecurity. More than 1.5 million people—mostly agricultural workers and family farmers—moved from rural regions to cities and temporary settlements near urban centers, especially on the outskirts of Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Damascus, and Dara’a.
A research paper published in 2012 suggested that climate change is already beginning to influence long-term droughts in the region including Syria by reducing winter rainfall (Hoerling et al. 2012). That study suggests that winter droughts are increasingly common and that human-caused climate change is playing a role. Martin Hoerling of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Laboratory, one of the study’s authors, stated, “The magnitude and frequency of the drying that has occurred is too great to be explained by natural variability alone” (NOAA 2011).
If the international community wants to reduce the risks of local and international political conflicts and violence over water, more effort will have to be put into recognizing these risks and improving the tools needed to reduce them. ‘
other reports have also shown the link between climate change and the war in Syria. For example,
the last of these states ‘We conclude that human influences on the climate system are implicated in the current Syrian conflict.’
A leading panel of retired generals and admirals, the CNA Corporation Military Advisory Board, recently labeled the impacts of climate change “catalysts for conflict” in vulnerable regions. The Pentagon concluded similarly in last year’s Quadrennial Defense Review that the effects of climate change are “threat multipliers,” enabling terrorism and other violence by aggravating underlying societal problems.
The CNA report states:
‘The nature and pace of observed climate changes—and an emerging scientific consensus on their projected consequences—pose severe risks for our national security. During our decades of experience in the U.S. military, we have addressed many national security challenges, from containment and deterrence of the Soviet nuclear threat during the Cold War to political extremism and transnational terrorism in recent years. The national security risks of projected climate change are as serious as any challenges we have faced. ‘
The Pentagon report states:
‘Climate change poses another significant challenge for the United States and the world at large. As greenhouse gas emissions increase, sea levels are rising, average global temperatures are increasing, and severe weather patterns are accelerating. These changes, coupled with other global dynamics, including growing, urbanizing, more affluent populations, and substantial economic growth in India, China, Brazil, and other nations, will devastate homes, land, and infrastructure. Climate change may exacerbate water scarcity and lead to sharp increases in food costs. The pressures caused by climate change will influence resource competition while placing additional burdens on economies, societies, and governance institutions around the world. These effects are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions – conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.’
and on the Turkana in northern Kenya:
Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence (chapters 4-6 look at Kenya)
Climate Change and the Turkana and Merille Conflict
Climate Change and Violent Conflict in Kenya: A Two-way Relationship.
The video here might also help http://e360.yale.edu/feature/when_the_water_ends_africas_climate_conflicts/2331/