CEO believes Nestlé is helping citizens stay healthy and hydrated
By Lauren Kelly, News Editor
Water bottling company Nestlé and CEO Tim Brown have come under heavy fire in recent months for continuing to bottle water in drought regions, such as British Columbia and California. Previously, Nestlé was able to bottle water from BC for free, but after criticism, the BC Liberal government has raised the cost to $2.25 per million litres. Nestlé bottles about 265 million litres of BC water a year, meaning they will pay about $600 over the course of the following year if this is upheld.
Environment Minister Mary Polak defended their decision to keep the cost of water low, as all water bottling companies will have to pay it. This means that, although Nestlé could pay the cost for water at nearly any price due to their size, many smaller companies would struggle to compete.
Polak also believes that it would be a risky idea to begin generating revenue from water, as it should be free to access. “We will never sell that right of ownership. We will allow access but it is tightly controlled.”
The majority of the backlash came as the result of online petitions on websites such as SumOfUs.org and Change.org. These took root in California, a state that has now been in drought conditions for four years. There have been protests throughout the state against the company, and the petitions have received hundreds of thousands of signatures.
However, in an interview with radio station KPCC, Brown stated that he would like to increase production if he could, saying: “We feel good about what we’re doing delivering healthy hydration to people throughout the state of California.”
Although Nestlé is bottling a large amount of BC water, the water use by citizens is also substantial. In a report released by Metro Vancouver, New Westminster had one of the lowest water usage rates with 365 litres per person per day. Coquitlam residents were slightly higher with 391 litres, and Delta topped the list with 632 litres per day. In total, the population of BC uses 1.6 billion litres of water a day. Less than 10 per cent of this water use is for drinking and cooking, and industry only accounts for about 40 per cent. The key difference is that this water is recycled into BC, whereas Nestlé ships worldwide. Still, citizens will have to work together during the drought to keep water usage levels under control.