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Nestlé moves ahead on Chaffee water plan

Brief by Central Staff

Water – February 2009 – Colorado Central Magazine

Chaffee County is now considering plans by Nestlé, the global food-products company based in Switzerland, to haul mountain spring water in trucks to Denver for bottling under the company’s Arrowhead brand.

The springs, formerly used for a private fish hatchery, are in the Nathrop area near Ruby Mountain, and are sometimes known as Hagen Springs. The company proposes to take about 200 acre-feet a year, and has been working with local water entities — primarily the City of Salida and the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District — on an augmentation plan. This would insure that downstream users with senior water rights would not be injured when this water is removed from the Arkansas River.

Nestlé’s plan involves removing the hatchery structures, restoring natural contours, and piping the water to a fill station in the Johnson Village area. When we talked to a company spokesman, he said local employment likely wouldn’t amount to much more than a watchman.

There have been a couple of public meetings scheduled on this issue, but their timing (Jan. 14 and 15) hasn’t worked well for Colorado Central. Copies of the company’s application are available at county offices in Salida and Buena Vista, as well as in those public libraries. The application documents are also on-line at link.

That site has a link to Nestlé’s corporate explanations of how it respects local communities and the environment. A recent report from Food and Water Watch, an environmental group, paints a different picture of the company, citing issues ranging from aquifer depletion to plastic in landfills, and it’s available on-line at link.

We should note that Colorado’s water law, arcane and archaic as it may be, offers greater protection than is found in some of the places cited in that report, such as Maine and Michigan.