Nestlé and the Privatization of Water: Are You Boycotting Bottled Water Yet?

In a world where food has become political, it’s easy to forget that there’s something even more essential than food: water.

Water is after all what helps our food grow; not only do we need to drink it, but so do the plants that we consume everyday. Without water, we have nothing.

The severity of the drought in California has put the water crisis at the forefront of our minds, but it’s nothing new. Over the last century, water use has grown at more than twice the rate of population increase, and by 2025, approximately 1.8 billion people will suffer from water scarcity. Water is an issue that we must take seriously.

In the face of such an issue, it seems near insanity that companies would profit off of water. The corporate face of water privatization is of course Nestlé. As the owner of a handful of water brands, like Poland Spring, Pellegrino, Perrier and Evian, Nestlé dominates the bottled water market.

Consumers spend up to 2,000 times the price of tap water to drink out of a bottle. And when an estimated 25 percent of all bottled water is actually tap water, I think we can all agree that a bottled water habit is simply idiotic.

But in the mind of the corporations, it’s their right to make money off of water. Nestlé CEO Peter Brabeck has publicly come under scolding for his comments back in 2013 in regards to water rights. “Water is of course the most important raw material we have today in the world. It’s a question of whether we should privatize the normal water supply for the population. And there are two different opinions on the matter. The one opinion, which I think is extreme, is represented by the NGOs, who bang on about declaring water a public right. That means as a human being you should have a right to water. That’s an extreme solution. And the other view says water is a foodstuff like any other. And like any other foodstuff it should have a market. Personally I think it’s better to give foodstuff a market value…”

While that might sound like extreme thinking, it’s definitely in line with Nestlé’s global push to privatize water sources. In Pakistan, Nestlé has been accused of draining groundwater levels and affecting local health in order to bottle Pure Life, a bottled water brand marketed as a healthy option for families. What’s so healthy about drinking contaminated groundwater because the levels are so low? At the World Water Forum in 2000, Nestlé successfully lobbied to keep water from being declared a universal human right (Nestlé defines water as a “need”).

If you think that’s appalling, check out The Story of Stuff Project that made the fantastic video on bottled water back in 2010 and has recently launched a campaign against Nestlé and the privatization of water.

As Nestlé lays claim to 700 million gallons of water in thirsty California, the corporation’s leadership publicly holds that it is providing a benefit to people. With five bottling facilities in California, Nestlé claims to run its own operation because “people need to drink water.” But that’s a benefit that really only benefits the company, financially speaking, and for the citizens of California, means drawing from its groundwater, an act that is unfortunately goes unregulated by the government. In fact, Nestlé Waters North America’s CEO Tim Brown said in a public radio interview, “If I stop bottling water tomorrow, people would buy a different brand of bottled water. We see this everyday. In fact, if I could increase [bottling], I would.” It seems nothing, not even a debilitating drought, will make Nestlé stop.

Boycotting Nestlé is of course one option, and you might be surprised at what brands that fall under the Nestlé umbrella. Time to kick your PowerBar habit, athletes. Got a Nespresso maker? Time to ditch that as well, sorry George (although, I don’t know why you are drinking capsule coffee in the first place). Also, you should probably stop feeding your dog Purina Dog Chow.

The other option, and the simplest one which you can implement on an everyday basis, is to boycott bottled water, of all brands. All things considered, when we live in countries where access to clean, potable water is as easy as turning on the tap, there is no excuse for drinking bottled water. None.

Originally published on EcoSalon

Image: SimonQ

Comments 2

  1. Cassie Tran

    What a fascinating read! :O

  2. Randy Simpson

    I bought a water filter years ago and have been boycotting bottle water ever since, but this article is a real eye opener. Thanks for writing it. I’d say let’s boycott Nestlé period.

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