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No New Permit for Nestlé

To the Editor,

Chaffee County commissioners are considering renewing Nestlé Waters permit to extract up to 65 million gallons of water per year for another ten years. Up to 25 trucks per day are permitted to haul water 130 miles to Denver, where the water is packaged in single-use plastic bottles and sold under the Arrowhead brand name.

In 2009, despite great public resistance, the commissioners at the time granted this multi-national, multi-billion-dollar corporation a 1041 permit. A 1041 permit is required for such development in areas of state-wide interest and requires that “benefits accruing county and citizens outweigh loss of resources or losses of opportunity to develop resources.” This was a time of economic recession. Nestlé Waters promised local jobs and donations to area schools and organizations to satisfy that criteria.

Now, near Browns Canyon National Monument where Nestlé’s wells are located, the area is of nation-wide interest. The local population has boomed and the economy is largely based on the area’s natural beauty and the outdoor recreation industry. Today, plastic pollution and the difficulty of recycling plastic are part of residents’ daily conversations.

Fortunately, laws require that the water Nestle removes from the aquifer at Ruby Mountain is “augmented” with reservoir water from Twin Lakes to the Arkansas River. But if climate change were factored in, and if Nestlé extracted all the water they are permitted (three times what they report taking), would the replacement river water prevent loss to the aquifer? The permit should require third-party monitoring, not of Nestlé’s choosing.

Nestlé has fallen short on the permit criteria to hire at least half of their truck drivers locally. They also failed to fulfill their promise, made over a decade ago, to place land in a conservation land easement. Just now, right before the public hearing for the permit renewal, they are showing some efforts for a conservation land easement with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Would such a promise be given some teeth this time? Before negotiating with CPW though, Nestlé made a deal with neighbors for a boundary line adjustment, which will allow for development of a residential, river-front subdivision.

This is a greedy corporation with a long track record of environmental and humanitarian abuses. They are not to be trusted. The approximately 270K they have given to area schools over ten years is not philanthropic, it’s to satisfy permit criteria, and the amount is nothing to Nestlé. They know how to play this game. They do favors for underfunded land management agencies, they give just enough to environmental organizations to silence them, and they cozy up to county officials. The current Chaffee County planning commission chairman, Michael Allen, is also Nestlé’s consultant. Read the extension request letter on Chaffee County’s public notices page,, where Michael Allen and Nestlé spell out their plan to have the permit renewed, as is, and then ask for revisions and amendments later.

Ultimately, Nestle predicts water is the next oil. They are setting up for a future of privatized water. They have already succeeded in changing the culture – from people trusting tap water and finding it absurd to buy it in bottles – to bottled water becoming normalized. It’s not much different from the way Nestle convinced mothers in developing countries that they should not trust their own breast milk and should instead buy Nestle’s infant formula. Selling people essentially free tap water under their Pure Life brand is not enough, they also want to extract from deep wells for their Arrowhead “spring” water brand, with bigger plans to profit off future water scarcity. Don’t fall for it!

• Attend the public hearing currently scheduled for April 21 at the Buena Vista Community Center at 12:30 p.m.

• Write the commissioners. Include Greg Felt, Keith Baker, and Rusty Granzella in the same message with administrative assistant, Patty Baldwin to avoid ex parte communication.,,,

• Join the Facebook group “Unbottle and Protect Chaffee County Water” and invite your friends.

• Check out the website and share it to other social media platforms.

• Write an editorial letter to a local publication.

Jennifer Swacina, Salida, CO