California halts some Arrowhead water bottling activities | Courthouse News Service
Thursday, November 30, 2023
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California halts some Arrowhead water bottling activities

The Tuesday decision by the State Water Resources Control Board affects 10 of 13 water diversion sites in the Strawberry Creek watershed in San Bernardino County.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — The California State Water Resources Control Board on Tuesday issued a cease-and-desist order against Arrowhead parent company BlueTriton Brands, stopping some of its water-bottling operations in San Bernardino County.

However, the board’s unanimous decision has no effect on the Connecticut-based company’s water-diversion activities in that area for other purposes, some of which include bottling.

Tuesday’s board action stems from complaints received between 2015 and 2017 against BlueTriton’s predecessor company, Nestlé Waters North America. Those complaints said the diversion of water from the Strawberry Creek watershed without a valid right, unreasonable use of water, and incorrect reporting of those diversions, among other issues.

The cease-and-desist order states that BlueTriton has no rights for diverting water through certain tunnels and boreholes for its “Arrowhead Brand 100% Mountain Spring Water” bottling activities.

A representative for BlueTriton couldn’t be reached for comment by press time.

The order — which affects 10 of 13 of BlueTriton’s diversion sites — has no effect on certain water diversion activities. It can still send water to the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians for the Arrowhead Springs Hotel property, a contractual obligation it has to the tribe. It also has no effect on three boreholes for water-bottling operations or deliveries to the San Manuel Band.

BlueTriton must keep flow meters and records and give monthly reports about those diversions.

The Center for Biological Diversity praised the decision.

“I’m thrilled that California’s State Water Resources Control Board adopted the cease-and-desist order against BlueTriton Brands’ unauthorized diversions in Strawberry Canyon for Arrowhead bottled water,” said Lisa Belenky, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement. “By adopting this order, the state took a critical first step toward protecting this creek and Strawberry Canyon’s springs, as well as the fish, wildlife and riparian vegetation that depend on these waters.”

The history of Arrowhead water starts in the 1800s.

A spa opened on the land in 1864, which in 1885 became a hotel and resort. A fire in 1895 destroyed the hotel, but it was rebuilt in 1905 by Seth Marshall. The next year, Marshall started bottling “Arrowhead Springs” water in the basement. He sold it exclusively at the hotel.

This was followed by business deals, warranty deeds and court rulings over decades, with companies and entities changing names and consolidating over the years. In 2021, Nestlé became BlueTriton after an acquisition. An administrative hearing about the complaints began in 2022.

At that hearing, a witness testified that certain tunnels and boreholes were under the purview of the water board.

It was determined that 10 of the 13 diversion sites would have been subject to water board permitting and enforcement. Also, BlueTriton provided no evidence that any of its predecessors had rights to Arrowhead Springs Water prior to 1914.

"I am very pleased with the board's final order,” said Jule Rizzardo, assistant deputy director for the Division of Water Rights and lead prosecutor on this case. “It sends a message that BlueTriton cannot continue unauthorized diversions at the expense of people and the environment. Now is the time to demand accountability if we want California's water supply to be available for future generations."

Categories / Business, Environment, Government, Regional

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