Rain, rain, come and stay!

By Tessa Munson
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California is no stranger to droughts; we are probably more used to living with drought recommendations and restrictions than without them. The 2018 rainy season has not deviated from the torrid trend. As of Feb. 13, National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) estimates that 75 percent of the state’s population is affected by the drought.

US Drought Monitor by NIDIS.

Based on their website, Monterey Peninsula and the Tri-County area falls within the realm of “no drought” to “abnormally dry.” Much of Northern California lies in those categories. According to NIDIS, This is in contrast to the majority of Southern California, which shows tendencies towards the “severe drought” category.

Other than residents’ daily water needs, the drought is of concern to the Tri-County area for one main reason: the ever-present agricultural sector in the Monterey area, which relies on freshwater to produce crops. It is no secret that Salinas is referred to as the “Salad Bowl of the World,” because it is “one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world,” according to the Salinas County website. The Salinas economy also relies on freshwater, since the agricultural sector is the major cash crop of the area.

Where does the South Bay get its water from, anyway? According to Water Education Foundation, the answer is: groundwater, local streams and rivers. Before the five year rainless streak ended last year, California residents suffered major water restrictions in order to compensate for the shortage.

Such restrictions were lifted after heavy rainfall last season, but California wasn’t out of the drought for very long. Now, in an attempt to “make water conservation a way of life,” there is a proposal to bring back water restrictions in the state and make
them permanent, since the effects of climate change bring longer, more intense droughts, according to the California Water Resources Control Board. Further restrictions won’t help California out of the drought, but every little bit helps.

In spite of the drought and the many years that California has been dehydrated, one entity has continued to exploit the precious resource—Nestlé. CBS Los Angeles News reports that the company pays just $524 per year to the U.S. Forest Service for the permit, while they extract over 30 million gallons of water from the San Bernardino mountains and sell it back to the residents (and beyond) with a strong markup. However, the company claims that their practices are sustainably sound, and if they weren’t, they would cease activities immediately.

Several water rights complaints, along with an online petition against Nestlé, prompted the
State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) and Division of Water Rights (Division) to launch an “extensive water rights complaints investigation, which included a detailed evaluation of the geology of the spring water sources in the SBNF [San Bernardino National Forest] and Nestlé’s historical water rights claims,” according to California Water Boards. The Report of Investigation public comment period ended on Feb. 9, and the comments are to be responded to by the division within a timely manner. To read the Report of Investigation and the Public Comments, visit waterboards.ca.gov/waterrights/water_issues/programs/enforcement/complaints/nestle.html.

Why should you care that Nestlé is essentially stealing water from the springs of Strawberry Creek in the San Bernardino National Forest?

First, a multi-billion dollar corporation is extracting a public resource from public lands, and then selling that resource back to the residents (and others) at an astronomically high markup. Second, it has been more than 70 years since Nestlé’s permits have been evaluated. Certainly much has changed in the geological landscape in the last 70 years, why must complaints and petitions prompt a reevaluation, rather than permit time limits imposed and enforced? Third, if Nestlé has been exploiting this resource and getting away with it for so long, are there other companies exploiting other resources that the public is not aware of? Lastly, with water resources becoming more scarce with more intense, longer lasting droughts imposed by climate change, the probability of water prices increasing is also high. Just because we can afford it today, doesn’t mean we will afford it tomorrow.

It’s time to start taking a good, hard look at the ways in which we obtain and use water. Do you still buy bottled water? Consider purchasing a reusable glass or metal bottle and boycott businesses that profit off of public resources. Do you leave the faucet running while washing your dishes? Fill a dishpan with hot, soapy water instead. Do you leave the faucet on while washing your hands and/or brushing your teeth? Turn the source off while it is not in use. Here are 25 ways to reduce your water usage, please visit eartheasy.com/live_water_saving.htm.

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