Tag Archives: Riverside County

Is Nestlé Ignoring The Drought?

Nestlé ’s perspective in the wake of finger pointing


Photo Courtesy:  Arrowhead.com

Photo Courtesy: Arrowhead.com

By K.P. Sander

Riverside County – By now you have most likely heard of Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D-California) declaration of a statewide drought emergency, urging all Californians to reduce their water usage by 20 percent.  Not surprising, with California facing one of its most severe droughts on record.

Municipalities and individuals alike are trying to do their part: shorter showers, landscaping changes, fixing leaky faucets, and more.  But what about Corporate America?  Is everyone doing their part?

There is some controversy surrounding corporate giant, Nestlé Waters North America, owner of Arrowhead Water.  Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water is sourced from a natural spring located on the reservation for the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, located at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains.

Nestlé leases tribal land and has been extracting the water from wells near the spring for about 15 years.  With underground water stores declining due to the drought – in a desert area that only gets a few inches of rainfall each year – many are wondering how much water Nestlé is extracting, and what accountability measures are in place.

The Morongo Reservation is in itself a sovereign nation, and as such is not required to comply with Gov. Brown’s drought mandate.  But is that allowing Nestlé to make environmentally unconscionable decisions?

The Desert Sun reported that Morongo filed a 2013 accounting with the state for 598 acre-feet of groundwater being pumped: “Those amounts translate to about 200 million gallons a year,” or enough water for approximately 400 typical desert homes.”  Nestlé allegedly stopped releasing annual reports of accountability in 2009.

The spring in question was sold by the Cabazon Water District to the Morongo tribe in early 2000, and the Arrowhead bottling production started shortly thereafter.  While no one is questioning that the plant helps the economy in terms of jobs, some say bottling the water in the midst of a severe drought is not the best use of the resource.

The truth of the matter is that U.S. consumers are drinking more water – specifically more bottled water.  And Nestlé is not the corporate villain they have been made out to be.

Jane Lazgin, a spokesperson for Nestlé Waters North America, Inc., provides a different perspective, and one that is more in alignment with California’s drought concerns than previously thought.

Nestlé does, in fact, have five springs in Southern California, and one of those springs is on Tribal lands belonging to the Morongo Band of Mission Indians.  Nestlé employs a team of geologists who manage and measure each of these springs for sustainability.

“Our water use needs to be reported to the governing body, and in the case of the Morongo spring, it is the Tribal officials – who, incidentally, are great conservationists and hold Nestlé  to a very high standard,” says Lazgin.

Overall, water consumption is up due to health consciousness, and Nestlé supplies drinking water as an alternative to sweetened, caloric drinks; good for health and good for the environment.  Lazgin says that Nestlé’s job is to be sure that they have a sustainable supply of water available to meet demands.

“By nature, the bottling of water is an efficient process,” she says.

Nestlé’s production plant has received a silver LEED rating (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – developed by the U.S. Green Building Council to guide and provide sustainability standards).  To earn points for this environmental leadership rating, they need to limit water and energy loss; so, yes, they definitely share the concerns for California’s drought.

Nestlé is an obvious water user, but of the 108 facilities that bottle water in California, Nestlé owns only five of them.  And even this is only a “drop in the bucket” of water used by industrial manufacturers.

Says Lazgin, “This is the equivalent of watering two golf courses over the period of one year.”

To further share in environmental consciousness, Nestlé has been able to extract 60% of the plastic used in all of their water containers, and the bottles themselves are manufactured with 50% recycled materials.  Working in concert with the CarbonLITE recycling plant in Riverside, California, Nestlé strives to further reduce carbon emissions and environmental waste.

“It creates an eco-friendly domino effect of savings to the environment – less plastic, lower shipping costs, less energy being used,” says Lazgin about their commitment to the environment.

Perhaps it’s all about perspective, but Nestlé appears to be working with – not against – the efforts to assist with California’s drought initiatives.


Vehicle License Fees: Governor Brown Says No


Riverside County – On Sun., Sept. 28, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed the bill that would have restored funding that was diverted from California’s four newest Riverside County cities: Eastvale, Jurupa Valley, Menifee and Wildomar.

The fate of the legislative bill expected to restore Vehicle License Fees (VLF) to these cities has had a disappointing outcome. Senate Bill 69 – sponsored by Senator Richard Roth (D-Riverside) – proposed to move an estimated $18 to $19 million in property tax money normally marked for education to the four cities. SB69 stemmed in part from a 2011 decision by California lawmakers to transfer millions in VLF funds from cities as part of the AB109 prison realignment process that shifted these costs from the state to counties. This was done to help counties absorb these new costs. The removal of these resources greatly impacted newer municipalities that relied heavily upon VLF funds. Because state law requires full funding for education, that money would have to have been repaid from the general fund.

Eastvale, Jurupa Valley, Wildomar, and Menifee, all of which have incorporated since 2008, have worked with a lobbyist for the past two years trying to get the funds restored, but to no avail. In a providential act, Eastvale dropped out of the lobbying earlier this year, with Mayor Ike Bootsma stating that there were better ways to spend that money.

john-tavaglione“This is a slap in the face to this

county and the four cities that

have worked very, very hard to

become incorporated.”

-Supervisor John Tavaglione

Many, including Riverside County Supervisor, Second District, John Tavaglione, had hoped to see the bill succeed. Tavaglione has worked tirelessly for the county and on this project in particular. At their regular board meeting on Tues., Sept. 30, he had some strong words in response to the veto.

John Benoit, Riverside’s Fourth District Supervisor, began the discussion on the veto saying that this was the third time the Governor has vetoed similar legislation. The four cities were told they would get an extra slice of the VLF to help them incorporate, and then the state changed the rules after the fact. The last time the Legislature voted to override a veto was in 1979, during Brown’s first term as governor. Benoit asked if there were legal avenues to explore.

“The courts may take a different view,” Benoit said regarding Brown’s veto.

When Tavaglione took his turn at the board meeting to comment on the Governor’s veto, his quiet eloquence did not mask his anger over the situation. He stated he would not delay pursuing legal action, and recommended that they send a letter to Senator Roth – whom he called a “true professional” – strongly suggesting a lawsuit.

“Senator Roth has worked diligently on this and many other actions, and was literally slapped in the face on this bill. I fully concur on the lawsuit,” said Tavaglione.

In 2010-11, the state was rapidly shifting responsibilities to the counties (including AB109, and Health and Human Services). With that shift, it became increasingly difficult for counties to provide municipal services to unincorporated areas. Incorporation was encouraged, with the VLF added in to help financially. When a city is counting on that funding as a significant portion of their operating budget, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to retain independence.

Tavaglione ended his board meeting comments on the veto by saying, “Those of us who were around during the Edmund G. [Pat] Brown, Sr. administration, remember that he was a true governor. He used true infrastructure for building roads and bridges. Jerry Brown is not his father’s son, I will tell you that. He has not represented us well, and I’m embarrassed to say he is our governor. This is a slap in the face to this county and the four cities that have worked very, very hard to become incorporated. This was a miserable, cold-hearted action.”

In Sunday’s message regarding the veto, Governor Brown stated, “I do not believe that it would be prudent to authorize legislation that would result in long term costs to the [state’s] general fund.” Tavaglione says the governor is using his billion dollar High Speed Rail as a priority.

Steven Aguilar, a candidate for Eastvale City Council, in a recent Facebook post said, “For Jerry Brown to meet with Riverside County officials in January and say he doesn’t understand what the big deal is with these four new cities is absurd. Jurupa Valley is in dire need of a financial boost from the State. Eastvale, Menifee, and Wildomar would have been in a better position than the cities are today. Jerry Brown needs to realize that having a city disincorporate under his term is NOT the best way to be remembered. Every constituent from all four cities needs to elect the best representation that will determine the sustainability of each city.”

While Eastvale may persevere, other cities may not be so fortunate.

Michele Nissen, Public Information Officer for Eastvale, says City officials have been prudent in their budgeting without relying on the VLF funds.

“We have been very conservative in our budget decisions (past, present and future) and have not counted on getting the VLF money back.  The major impact to the City is that the loss of VLF money takes away our ability to provide more police officers and other services,” said Nissen.

The loss of VLF funds was hardest on Jurupa Valley, which was the last of the four cities to incorporate, just two days after the shifting of VLF funds by the state in 2011. The new city lost nearly half of its general fund budget during its first year. It has since cut expenses and delayed some payments to Riverside County. But without restoration of the VLF funds, the city expects to run out of money by July 2015; perhaps a few months longer. As a precaution, city officials reluctantly began the lengthy disincorporation process this past January.

If Riverside County pursues the lawsuit, we have definitely not heard the last of this very controversial issue.

Glenn Freeman contributed to this article.