Written by Bob Parker

Nestlé has created a market for bottled water where there is no need. We do not need bottled water in Colorado.

As you have probably heard somewhere, Nestle Waters is the number one procurer and bottler of water in the world. Nestle is one of the top few creators of single use plastic in the world. They are also arguably the worst polluter of single use plastic in the world.  All this plastic is created by the gas and oil industry, who as they lose market revenue from flagging gasoline sales are ramping up their production of plastic to compensate.

The 350 Central Colorado Leadership Council after serious research and discussion decided to ally with the group Un-bottle and Protect Chaffee County Water LLC, also called Nestleave, to attempt to convince the Chaffee County Commissioners to deny giving an extension of ten years to a now expired water lease from a local spring (the last lease was also for 10 years).

Nestleave’s team members have spent more than a year doing extensive research and work both to understand the situation and to enlighten the public as best they can. Their resources both financially and in number of volunteers have been limited. After Covid their situation was even more dire. We, 350 Central Colorado, were asked if we would help. As we have gathered our resources and researched Nestle both as a part of a local issue and looking more at Nestle Waters on a statewide and even global scale, the magnitude of our attempt has really struck us as almost overwhelming.

Nestle Waters came into Chaffee County ten years ago and bought two clear and pure  springs. The primary spring, Ruby Mountain Spring, comes out of the ground very close to Browns Canyon National Monument. In order to take the 200 acre feet a year that they paid for, Nestle needed the Chaffee County Commissioners to approve a 1041 Permit that broke down just what they could and could not do.  Eventually, even though over 80% of the county population opposed the Permit the then Commissioners unanimously approved it.

So Nestle has been pumping water out of the spring and augmenting it with water from Twin Lakes for ten years. They built a trucking transfer station in nearby Johnson Village. Nestle piped the water from the spring to the transfer station and from there 25 tankers holding 8,000 gallons each take the water down to the Nestle three hundred sixty thousand (360,000) square foot bottling plant  in North Denver.

Here are a few facts to keep in mind:

By the end of this proposed lease they will have pumped at least 1billion 300 million (1,300,000,000) gallons of water out of the aquifer and out of the drainage, out of the county.

Each year up to 484 million 800 thousand (484,800,000) single use plastic bottles are filled with this spring water.

Already in the past 10 years this is 4 billion 848 million (4,848,000,000)  bottles of water – then eventually toxic rubbish. 

By the end of the next 10 years it is estimated that 9 billion 696 million (9,696,000,000) of these bottles will have been filled with the water in Denver, sold for astonishing profit and then these single use bottles will be thrown away in high mountain lakes, along trails, in our mountain and wild creeks, beside sidewalks, in the gutters, alongside roadways and even a few will make into county and city landfills.  As the bottles we have seen are labeled recycle number 4, they can not even effectively be recycled.

Then we discovered that it takes another gallon and a half of water from the city to produce a  single-use plastic bottle that will hold 16.9 oz of spring water. Now multiply those extra  gallons out and add them to the total water taken from the spring, the amount of water impacted is staggering.

I mentioned the 25 water tanker trucks that are on the road seven days a week transporting the spring water 120 miles from Johnson Village to the Denver bottling plant. Please remember this is mostly a two lane mountain road with a 2,570 foot altitude rise one way and fall the other (with the 8,000 gallons of water) with tankers on this highway 24 hours a day and night.  This is six thousand (6.000) miles a day, or two million, one hundred ninety thousand (2,190,000) miles a year or twenty one million, nine hundred thousand (21,900,000) miles over the next ten years.  Do I need to explain to you the level of fossil fuels expended and the amount of diesel pollution much less wear and tear on the highway this enterprise is costing all of us in loss of infrastructure, damage to climate and fear of those rare but entirely possible momentary failures of human judgement creating untold loss of life? I think not.

Three elected County Commissioners must decide whether to continue this abuse of water and land. But they are up against a juggernaut. What Nestle wants, Nestle usually gets. Otherwise they will at the least sue Chaffee County, a small and rural county. 

We at 350 Central Colorado along with Nestleave and numerous other citizens want to convince these County Commissioners to stand against  Nestle. Yet we are not professional lawyers and hydrologists and journalists and high level politicians. We make up a couple of handfuls of ordinary citizens. Many local non-profit groups can not now fight Nestle as they have accepted sometimes nominal and sometimes large funds from Nestle. Nothing is ever free.

 We are convinced we must push forward to stop the giant but we are also afraid. Many of our members are scared of the power of Nestle if it focuses its displeasure on them – on any of us. Jobs can be lost and careers can be shattered in an instant. People who oppose our fight to save the climate who are now carrying AR 15s around with impunity can easily be motivated to do more than just swagger.

We do what we can. That is to inform the public of Nestle callously taking our county’s water during this mega-drought; to inform our friends, neighbors and fellow activists to the damage being done to our land and to your land – to all of Colorado; to give our three now quite lonely County Commissioners every bit of information we can so they can make their decision out of strength and not out of fear.

 Maybe, just maybe, if we can raise enough awareness, enough funding, enlist some of these experts to our cause in an exceptional short period of time – by October 20 to be exact, maybe we can prevail.

Will you help us in whatever way you can to help with this fight?  Comments to the Chaffee County Commissioners https://www.themountainmail.com/legals/article_c254fdf8-f95c-11ea-bf85-27cfd358bc4e.html?fbclid=IwAR3fCQCPYr9iEq1pSht82Opo5FR1kAFtOe7vhtuUg-Niy1qILWhb5DxzCHU ; monetary donations (include URL here); pertinent information on hydrology, legal advice; or if you can participate either via zoom or even in person, (robertkayparker@gmail.com), anything you think might be useful would be greatly appreciated.  We are short on time and need your help and support.  Thank you.