April 23 (Reuters) - California's Water Resources Control
Board on Friday asked Nestle to stop unauthorized
natural spring water diversions in the San Bernardino Forest
after a probe revealed multiple violations and depletion of
The action comes as the state ramps up efforts to preserve
water resources amid worsening drought conditions.
The order is in response to several water rights complaints
and an online petition against Nestle Waters North America
starting in 2015, which led to drinking water supply shortages
and impacted environmental resources.
Nestle, one of the world's largest bottled water companies,
has 20 days to respond to the draft cease and desist order and
request a hearing or the State Water Board may issue a final
order, the board said.
The company may be asked to limit diversions from surface
streams to its pre-1914 water rights and submit annual
monitoring reports, among other steps, if the order is adopted,
Nestle's facilities in the Strawberry Creek watershed, a
tributary of the Santa Ana River, involves 13 sites where spring
water is taken and redirected for bottling at numerous plants,
including one in downtown Los Angeles.
Parched conditions throughout the U.S. West are following
quickly on the heels of a multi-year drought in the region last
Earlier this week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom proclaimed a
regional drought emergency in two Northern counties and directed
state agencies to take immediate action to address the drought.
"It is concerning that these diversions are continuing
despite recommendations from the initial report, and while the
state is heading into a second dry year," said Jule Rizzardo,
assistant deputy director for the Division of Water Rights.
Nestle sold some struggling North American water brands to
private equity firms One Rock Capital Partners and Metropoulos &
Co for $4.3 billion in April, as the food giant doubles down on
its premium offerings.
BlueTriton Brands, the renamed company after the deal, said
the order was contrary to California water rights law and it
will pursue all legal options.
(Reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru and Nichola Groom in
Los Angeles; Editing by Arun Koyyur)