SACRAMENTO (CN) – California’s water cop has fined a bottled water company $225,000 for repeatedly ignoring drought orders over the last two years and failing to cease water diversions.
Sugar Pine Spring Water is accused of diverting 22 acre-feet of Sierra Nevada spring water over the past two years despite warnings from the State Water Resources Control Board. Wednesday’s fine is just the second enforcement action issued this year for illegal diversions by the water board and the first against a bottled water company.
The complaint accuses Scott Fahey, owner of Sugar Pine Springs Water, of diverting water in 2014 after being notified by regulators there was not sufficient supplies available per his junior water-rights permit. Fahey continued to divert water in April after again being notified of a lack of water, the water board says.
Fahey owns two post-1914 water-rights permits to divert water from several tributaries of the Tuolumne River. The water board claims Fahey violated diversion orders for a total of 170 days through pipelines that delivered bulk water to a water-truck filling station in Tuolumne County, east of the Central Valley.
The complaint does not mention the names of the bottling companies affiliated with Fahey’s water-filling station and Fahey could not be reached for comment.
California’s commercial bottled water companies have drawn criticism from residents who say the firms are depleting surface and ground water supplies during the state’s epic drought. Protestors this year have hounded a Nestle bottled water plant in Sacramento and a Crystal Geyser operation near Mount Shasta.
Nestle’s CEO Peter Brabeck has been the target of criticism for statements he made in a 2005 video saying that water is not a human right and should be privatized. Brabeck has since clarified his stance on the issue, saying his comments were taken out of context and that the world’s “attitude toward water needs to change.”
The water board says it used surveillance cameras to capture water tankers on Fahey’s rural property. Fahey has the ability to challenge the fine and ask for a hearing before an administrative law judge.
Last month, the water board slapped a $1.5 million fine on a Central California water district for ignoring curtailment orders. The Byron-Bethany Irrigation District accused the regulator of making an “arbitrary example” of it and that it would fight the fine.
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