Unbottle and Protect Chaffee County Water, LLC

Nestle is requesting a 10-year 1041 permit renewal to suck water from Ruby Springs, and truck it to Denver to be bottled, in plastic, under their Arrowhead brand. We believe that permit should be denied.  Here’s why:

1. Nestle Waters North America should not be allowed to operate on land of state-wide interest

Chaffee County commissioners can choose to deny Nestle’s 1041 permit if they don’t find that the “benefits accruing to the county and its citizens from the project outweigh the losses and any natural, agricultural, or recreational resources within the county, or the losses of opportunity to develop such resources.” [CC 1041 regulations 3-303 (1)(k)(vi)]  Nestle has not met this criteria.


2. Mandatory Philanthropy does not outweigh our loss

Nestle’s “community giving” is an attempt to silence opposition from local non-profits and organizations. This multi-billion-dollar company extracts water from Ruby Springs, trucks it to Denver and bottles it under the Arrowhead brand for a huge profit.  Over the last decade they have given token amounts to schools, non-profits and other organizations. These donations represent a drop in the bucket for this multi-billion dollar company. We do not think this “benefit” outweighs the loss to Chaffee County.


3. Proliferation of Plastic Pollution

Nestle has donated approximately 292,596 plastic water bottles to the community since their permit was approved in 2009. Plastic pollution has drastically increased over that ten-year term. Nestle has not taken responsibility for the disposal of the plastic waste they create. In fact, they donate single-use plastic water bottles to organizations within our county. That should not be considered an asset, rather an impact, given that the county now subsidizes recycling. We do not want Chaffee County to be participants in the proliferation of plastic waste.


4. NON-COMPLIANCE on hiring locals

Nestle failed to meet the permit requirement to hire at least 50% percent of their truck drivers from Chaffee County, despite relocating some drivers here. The company has employed as many as 13 residents (in 2017) and as few as 5 (in 2019). The economic gains, that the county factored in, from expecting more local hiring when the permit was initially approved, have not materialized. 


5. NON-COMPLIANCE on promised Conservation Easement:

As part of the original permit agreement, Nestle volunteered to put their land (located next to what is now Browns Canyon National Monument) into a permanent conservation easement “concurrent with construction of the project.” Over ten years have passed, and yet Nestle still has not done this. They did, however, recently trade off the most desirable river-front property, allowing for the Rio Frio Minor subdivision to soon be developed. 


Nestle now claims that they may put the remaining land into a conservation easement if their permit renewal is granted, and is floating an arrangement to have Colorado Parks and Wildlife manage it. This is a veiled attempt for Nestle to achieve partial compliance with their permit, retroactively. Too little too late!


6. Lack of Evidence of Sustainability

Nestle is currently allowed up to 200 gallons of water per minute, 65 million gallons per year, and up to 25 trucks per day. They have been taking less than half of that, but we can expect the impacts on the aquifer and traffic will double when they take the maximum amounts. Increased production, county development, or climate change have not been factored into a Nestle-provided report determining their operation here is “sustainable”. At this time of extreme drought conditions this is not sustainable, nor is it in the best interest of the county and it’s citizens.


7. Breach of Trust

Nestle, a Swiss company with a global reputation of humanitarian and environmental abuses, self-monitors and self-reports with little to no review by Chaffee County professionals. The company has requested to do even less future monitoring (technical revision #12). Fortunately, Colorado water law requires Nestle to pay for “augmentation” of the water they extract. But replacing water from the western slope does not mitigate all that is lost from the aquifer. Although the replacement water is deemed “drinkable,” it is not equal to the spring water that Nestle sucks and trucks out of the Upper Arkansas River Valley. 


8. Need can not be Substantiated 

CC 1041 regulations 3-303 (1) (a) Action on Permit Application: 1) the permit authority shall act upon the permit application within 60 days after the public hearing on the application has been concluded. In determining wether to approve, approve with conditions, or disapprove a permit application, the Permit Authority shall take into consideration the following criteria: 


(a)To the extent applicants service area is located in, or partially within, the boundaries of the county, the need for the proposed project can be substantiated.


The Nestle Waters service area, for the Arrowhead brand, expands far beyond Chaffee County.

Unbottle and Protect Chaffee County Water, LLC