How Nestle makes billions bottling free water | AJ+

How Nestle makes billions bottling free water | AJ+

Michigan – a state surrounded by water – is drowning in controversy. For years, Nestle, the world’s largest food and beverage
company, has bottled Michigan’s water for next to nothing and sold it at great
profit. Now, the state has greenlit the company’s request to pump even more,
despite widespread opposition. And all Nestle has to pay for these millions of gallons of water it gets a year is $200. And this, in a territory where Native
American tribes have treaty rights. There is a perception around the world that
Nestle goes into poor communities with lax regulations, entices them with the
promise of jobs and then takes their water, sells it back to them at a profit. We have to go where the water is at. What do you think Nestle should do? Go home to Switzerland. We’re walking up to see the White Pine
Springs well, where Nestle pumps 250 gallons of water a minute that it
bottles under its Ice Mountain brand. Despite massive opposition, Michigan has
just approved Nestle’s request to increase that amount to 400 gallons of
water a minute. And all Nestle has to pay for these millions of gallons of water
it gets a year is $200, which locals here are furious about. John McClane has worked as a surveyor in this area for over 30 years. He and Peggy Case are members of
Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, an organization that’s been
fighting Nestle for nearly two decades. So we’re looking at Nestle’s well over there. That’s Nestle’s White Spring well. And it’s fenced off because obviously we
cannot even get close to it. You can get within 20 feet. Since 2005, Nestle has
extracted more than 3.4 billion gallons of water from Michigan. The state doesn’t
charge extraction fees for water like it does for oil and gas. And because Nestle
owns this land, the company can take as much water as it wants for a $200-a-year
permit fee *if* there’s no harm to the environment. But locals here say the
damage is clear. Well, this is supposed to be the headwaters of Chippewa Creek. Where it starts. Where this Creek begins. According to Nestle, there should be
water here. Don’t see much. In order to grant Nestle’s request to pump 400 gallons per minute, the state required the company to run its plan through a
computer model, which determined there *would* be an adverse impact on the
environment. But Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality, or DEQ, overruled
those findings, and instead relied on data provided by Nestle to push the
permit through. The final hurdle was a public comment period, during which the
DEQ was flooded with more than 80,000 comments against Nestle’s request, and
only 75 in favor. But they approved it anyway. Why are you opposed to what
Nestle is doing here? Well, we’re opposed to bottled water and we’re opposed to privatizing water. They’re taking the water, putting it in plastic bottles,
selling it outside of the watershed and making a huge profit off of water that doesn’t belong to them. The water belongs to the people. Locals we spoke to accuse Nestle of trying to cover up traces of environmental
damage by offering to replace local infrastructure, like this culvert, where
water markings show how levels have dropped significantly over time. So the water used to be up that high, and now it’s this low? Yeah, two feet higher, which would have placed it up above the stones here. So you guys, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, made noise about how you can tell the water has gone down, and right away they
offered to replace the structures? At the next public meeting, they made that offer. Do you want them to do that? No. Why? Because it would destroy this evidence here. The fight for resources in this region
goes back centuries. Desmond Berry is a tribal citizen of the
Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. A treaty dating back to
1836 gives the tribe rights to the land and water in this area. The tribe spent
more than a year lobbying the DEQ against Nestle. Our treaty rights are
under threat by Nestle, a corporation that proposes to withdraw groundwater at
unprecedented levels, which will have an effect upon surface waters within our
treaty ceded territory where our way of life is dependent upon access to those
treaty reserved resources such as fisheries, such as wildlife, plants, animals. Have you seen that happen, so far? We’ve seen that happen in this area
where we’re standing right now, we should probably be in knee-deep water, and we’re not. And who’s that fault for that? Nestle’s that fault for that, because
about 2,000 yards behind us is their well. Nestle operates several well fields
across Osceola and Mecosta counties, including the White Pine Springs well.
Opponents say the surface waters of the two local creeks and river are suffering
as a result. The water Nestle extracts gets pumped to the small town of Evart
and then trucked to the Ice Mountain factory in Stanwood, where it’s bottled
and sold all over the Midwest. For years, critics have accused the company of exploiting lax water laws in economically depressed areas. Jobs. That’s what this tiny town of Evart had hoped for. More than 44% of
residents here live below the poverty line, but it’s rich in water. And for over a decade, Nestle has been purchasing a lot of that water from two of the town’s municipal wells. City manager Zachary Szakacks credits Nestle for saving his town. How much water are they getting from this well? 500 gallons per minute. And what are they paying for that? $3.50 per thousand. That sounds like a good deal for Nestle. It’s a great deal, but you just got to think of everything that Nestle has to do to get that water produced. They have to maintain this well. This well, to replace it, would be almost $1 million. Well, $1 million, one could argue, is a drop in the bucket compared to their profits worldwide and … Oh, it could be. It could be. So what is in it for the city of Evart, then? The revenue we generate annually from them. How much is that? I just looked at the numbers for 2017, and basically we generated $313,000. Is that significant for a city like Evart? Oh, it’s major for a city like ours. Despite hopes, Nestle never built a
factory in Evart. The few jobs that exist here are at the transfer station, where
water pumped from wells gets trucked to the Ice Mountain plant in Stanwood – 40
minutes away. Instead, Nestle helped finance things like new softball fields,
a state fairground and a new well. Did Nestle effectively buy out your town? No, not at all. Where do you come up with that? I mean, they’ve- They have not bought out our town. All they’re doing is purchasing spring water from us. It’s frustrating. We’re not like puppets. But Evart residents Maryann Borden and her daughter Rhonda feel differently. OK, they built new softball diamonds across the street from us. But we already had softball diamonds over at the fairgrounds. I mean, the things that they say they have given us, and maybe they’re a little nicer, but we already had those things. Maryann has lived in this home since 1953. Her two children grew up here, playing in this backyard creek. They claim they’ve witnessed noticable changes since Nestle came to town. What should be a coldwater stream where trout thrive is now warmer, narrower and more shallow. So what do you think is going on? Well, somebody is sucking the water out of my creek. And who do you think that somebody is? I think that somebody is Nestle. And they’ll say you can’t prove that. However, they are the only large corporation that is sucking water out of my stream by the millions of gallons that has moved into my township. Nestle agreed to speak to us at their Ice Mountain plant in Stanwood. In 2016, the company reportedly sold more
than $343 million of Michigan water under its Ice Mountain and Pure
Life labels. But that’s just a fraction of its worldwide footprint. Headquartered
in Switzerland, Nestle has over 8,500 brands in at least 80 countries. Arlene Anderson-Vincent is the natural resource manager for Nestle Waters North America. Why do you think there was so much local opposition to Nestle increasing their pumping there? We have lots of strong partnerships with residents and local businesses and business leaders. I’m not sure how much local opposition there is. Well, I’ll give you an example. We filmed a few people, several people I spoke to who were standing on the side of the road and fishing trout.
And we’d say, “How’s the fishing going?” One man literally said, “Well, I don’t catch as many thanks to Ice Mountain.” What do you say to him? The science just doesn’t show that. I also received lots of pictures of people saying, “Look how healthy the trout streams are.” So … So you’re not concerned that the area’s being depleted at all by Nestle’s pumping? I’m not concerned that the area’s being depleted. There’s genuine concern among locals, who say, “Once Nestle starts pumping to 400 gallons a minute, our ecosystem here will suffer.” What do you say to those people? The science does not show that. We are very confident in the science. We looked at it very conservatively. 400 gallons a minute is a very conservative number, as to what that well could pump, without negatively impacting any of the ecosystems. We study the ecosystems, we study the streams. But Nestle’s science relies on subcontractors the company hires itself. Does Nestle believe that water is a fundamental human right? Most definitely. It is a human right. It is most definitely a human right. There is a perception around the world that Nestle goes into poor communities with lax regulations, entices them with the promise of jobs and then takes their water, sells it back to them at a profit. How do you respond to that? I can’t speak to the perception, per se, but from the science perspective, we have to go where the water is at. So a lot of times, those are going to be more rural areas, because that’s where we have thick aquifers. It’s not heavily industrialized. So that’s where, from a science perspective, why we’re in this area, why we’re at White Pine Springs and why we’re in Stanwood. In 2016, bottled water surpassed soda for the first time, to become the number-one beverage in the U.S. Here in Michigan, just days after the state greenlit Nestle’s request to pump more water, the governor announced Flint residents would no longer be receiving free bottled water. People we met in Flint called out the irony. Tax Nestle and give it to Flint! That’s a slap in the face, that’s all I have to say. I mean, how would you feel if you had a $200 water bill and a billion-dollar company was getting a billion dollars’ worth of product for free? Despite public outcry, Nestle’s presence in Michigan appears unstoppable. In the ideal scenario, what do you think Nestle should do? Go home to Switzerland. I’m serious. Go home. We don’t want bottled water here. And we don’t want corporations taking the water and turning it into a profit. Period. Hey guys, it’s Dena. We did a lot of coverage of water problems for this season on Direct From From Cape Town, to Flint, to the Nestle story here. Check out the Direct From playlist to catch all of those episodes and more. Be sure to like and share this video, comment on it, and subscribe to AJ+. I’ll see you soon.

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About the Author: Oren Garnes


  1. Hi guys, thanks for watching my doc on Nestle. I've been really glad to see this type of critical reporting resonate with so many people.

    I hope you check out my latest video where I challenge PG&E, the largest utility company in the country, for sparking California's deadliest and most destructive wildfire. That's on top of 1,000+ other fires the company is responsible for causing in just the past few years. And that's not where the shadiness ends.

    Watch here and lemme know what you think:

  2. They aren’t doing anything wrong. It’s their land, so they get to pump the water from it. If it hurts the environment, clearly the state of Michigan doesn’t care anyways since they voted for it. What’s the big deal?

  3. Her answer to every question is : science perspective 🤦🏻‍♂️🤦🏻‍♂️🤦🏻‍♂️🤦🏻‍♂️🤦🏻‍♂️ even a PhD student in necular physics/astrophysics does not use the term science in one minute of conversation

  4. Hey if someone poisoned the water Nestle can't take it because if they did they would be selling bad water and could get sued

  5. Hello from Canada 🇨🇦 I work out on the roads and drink a lot of water and I agree it’s a natural resource what or who gives the right to any corporation to profit from it ? I hated the fact when they started bottling water 30 yrs ago when I can get it from my tap in my kitchen for pennies why would I pay for it . Here a small bottle is almost 3 dollars after” tax “ and “environment fee” and “deposit” what the hell ! The government is profiting as well and they are all laughing all the way to the bank now plastic has become a big problem the world over now they are stopping the use of plastic bags and straws soon I’ve heard also 1 time use plastic but not plastic bottles the profit is to large for the government to resist the big corps pay very well to the government and give the locals squat to their natural resource this is not the only concern when they talk about the fishing hmmm you need a fishing license before you cast your line a Guy went to court over not having a licence for providing his family with food from his local lake this government is out of control

  6. You have something someone else wants.
    To get that something, an offer is made.
    An agreement is ultimately made after much discussion.
    The something is supplied as promised and the offer is paid as promised.

    HEY!!!! We are upset now because WE thought we were getting one over on you, though now we can clearly see YOU are getting over on us.
    We need a new deal, or better yet, now that you put in all the hard work, we want you gone so that we can do this ourselves.

    I'm not just talking about water here.

  7. Utter nonsense. Look at a map – Michigan is among the wettest places in America. There's water everywhere, plenty of it, and more on the way. Or are you just griping because somebody figured out how to make money and this makes you envious?

  8. Al Jazeera Plus; your is one of the worst, dishonest reporting. Are you running a race with NBC & CNN to see who can hate America and capitalism the most? I have news for you, if Nestle bottle water for free (which they don't), we the consumer will buy it because I can't bottle it so Nestle does it for me and millions more for a fee. Where is the water in the bottle you just had came from?

  9. That water is garbage people need to stop buying at water it's no good👉🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮👎👎👎👎👎👎👎👎👎👎👎

  10. 200 USD a year, for millions of gallons of water?!? What in heavens name ran into the obviously insane and braindead local politicians who agreed to this??? It must be some of the most fuckbrained idiots I have ever heard of.

    Evart make 317.000 USD a year – imagine if the city itself had done this. Not only would they have had better control with how much were pumped up, but they would have made all the money themselves. And made some jobs. The city manager is a joke.
    And the Nestle woman who claim their pumping has not effect on the environment should spend her next bonus on a brain and get in touch with reality – a major problem many places around the world is the depletion of the groundwater and the aquifer, which makes areas sink and of course most seriously, suffer water shortage. This depletion is caused by a mix of overuse and variations in rain.

  11. I wonder how many places like this Nestle is using ? I know they have on ive driven by in Monroe Washington or nearby.This is particularly nefarious given the stance many local governments regarding future water availability.

  12. next do a report on the companies that sell a 1 dollar shoe for 1-2- and 3 hundred dollars… or politicians that leave office as millionaires (Obama)… or hollywood actors, "professional" athletes and law firms all making hundreds of millions for nothing.
    Oh, wait, it's not the seller of garbage- it's the CONSUMER that makes them rich.

  13. Nestle like, the Baltimore Habor piss Aquafina, is disgusting. Both say Natural, Natural does not mean natural and even if a product has .00000000001% of "Natural" anything in it, it can be labeled natural. Hondas are Natural, because metal comes from iron ore which is found NATURALLY. Get the logic? But they do not claim Spring Water. Spring water is what you want, not ozonated (sunlight) purified (iodine treated) water.

  14. In Arizona, a homeowner can pump as much as they need. If you are a farmer or industrial user your use is supposed to be restricted. But, the same thing is happening in Arizona as elsewhere: large corporations are buying up water rights from small users for pennies and they can then pump the aquifers dry, leaving others without water.

  15. Why are we SELLING /GIVING OUR water away? And to that same point, I heard a while back that we are doing the same thing selling water from the Great Lakes to some foreign country. Everyone talks about "conserve this and conserve that" but then our lawmakers go behind our backs and sell our water right out from under us! I'll tell you what: This summer was the LAST summer I let my grass die because I'm not allowed to water it unless its on a date that is an even number. But no more! If those CORRUPT LAWMAKERS CAN GET RICH ACCEPTING BRIBES SO THEY'LL VOTE TO DESTROY OUR GREAT LAKES, THEN I'M GOING TO WATER MY GRASS SO IT STAYS GREEN DAMMIT! Its time to TAKE MICHIGAN BACK!

  16. Bottled water should be banned worldwide there is a water shortage accross the globe this is clear greed and stupidity their is no good in this

  17. A good read on this issue is "Water Follies" by Robert Glennon. Don't support the bottled water industry which threatens surface water and produces a huge amount of plastic pollution – don't buy their product, vote with your wallet – problem solved!

  18. I've been boycotting Nestlè products for more than 5 years. I don't purchase neither coffee, coffee creamers, chocolate milk,water, etc, etc.
    Let's make an example of their immoral practices.

  19. Plastic bottling is wrong for our planet and Nestle is betting on our planet heating up. The rarer water becomes the more money Nestle will have. Avoid buying into their nasty, diabolical plan by using non disposible bottles and using your local utilities water.

  20. All the natural resources in a ground should belong to the citizens living on that ground in that nation.
    Man is losing. The corporations continue to conquer parts of the world, as does communist China. The world is heading to a time worse than ever known, nor will ever be known again. Please read Matthew 24: 15, then v 21, as there is a message there.
    Leviticus 23 applies. "In all your generations, in all your dwelling areas".
    Notice v 3.
    Genesis 2: 2.
    And Especially Deuteronomy 28.

  21. where are all the Trump/Republican bashers? democrats sold you out but your all quiet? and i won't even mention all those plastic bottles that will end up in landfills and the ocean.

  22. 3:10 The water belongs to.. the people?
    Who are you to decide that? What about nature? Animals and plants. It’s so easy to pretend to defend something and say it’s for a good cause. But it’s obvious.. these people just want it for themselves, greed has no boundaries in humanity. Water belongs to nobody. Humans constantly setting labels to things they should never even think about “owning”. I’m sick of the lies and pretending.

  23. You can't just cherry-pick scientific data… you have to look at the whole picture.
    It seems to me that Nestle are using the same 'scientists' as Trump using for climate change.
    Scientists should be given more of a voice instead of being told to hand over a report, which then will be 'revised'.
    Like with all cherry-picked facts, there are rooms full of scientist screeming "but that's not what I meant!'
    I know a few such people, mainly in the water purification industry and in the nuclear energy industry and they just keep their heads down and mouths closed because they like an income from an employer and not from the social welfare. And they remain silent.
    'Nuff said!

  24. Nestle isnt the blame..they obviously have permitts and permission to do what their doing…ppl need to fight these city leaders and the folks who are allowing Nestle to do it.

  25. I live in Michigan. What Nestle is doing is the epitome of corporate greed.
    Please, boycott everything that Nestle produces.

  26. Nestle should pack up and go the f*[email protected] back to where it came from and get it's water from the natural water in Switzerland. Last time I checked there was lots of ice there and oceans FULL of water that they could desalinate instead of emptying our aquifers possibly forever for mere pennies. Boycott ANYTHING Nestle!!!! The only thing true in the name "Pure Life Water" is that it gives a lot of LIFE to the bank accounts of it's owners and shareholders, and when there's a crisis, it does have a great PR dept. who steps up with water from who knows where, Johnny on the spot, but who really benefits in the end besides Nestle? Nobody! They should be run out of the US or any other country they drain water from for profit! Again, just boycott them period!

  27. you wanna be interviewing the environmental protection authorities, like most of these departments across the globe supporting foreign company interests for economic gains.



  30. Well the city council is clear as water getting bribed, that's why the people should vote all of them out (replace them) and then remove Nestle just that simple. And personally I try not to drink plastic bottled water, 1 it's a waste of money, 2 plastic leaches into the water and 3 all you're doing is paying for someone to put tap water in a bottle and deliver it via truck instead of the city to pump it to your house. Get a filter on your kitchen and bathroom sink faucets and your good to go.

  31. "the science does not show that"
    awkward pause
    "the science does not show that"
    incoherent mumbling
    "the science does not show that"
    brain explodes

  32. A larger question though is why American feel they need to buy bottled water? Why do so many people not trust their local tap water. We need to improve our water (in places like flint). Otherwise educate the public. I live in an area with very good water quality but people still by bottled water.

  33. @9:30 that's like the tobacco companies funding their own health studies. Everyone knows they're in the wrong and there needs to be something done about this! This is right in my home state!!!

  34. Amazing how money can make a local and state government turn a blind eye on the citizens they take an oath to protect…. Big business makes me sick

  35. Not to mention it negatively impacts the state's water, and the environment because of the tons of plastic that most likely won't be recycled or reused…

  36. Nestle pays 900k a year to them although this still is nothing compared to what the company makes off of this state alone which in the video was stated to be $343 million. If nestle were to pay them 1 percent of their yearly profits it would be nearly 4 times what they pay them now, outrageous.

  37. Not free water nestle paid for it like everyone else does. The amount they use is inconsequential. Far less them many farms.

  38. NEWS FLASH !!!
    FILE A UCC 1 LIEN FOR At least $300 BILLION with out a court judgement through a process called a NOTARY PROCESS ( Judgement)

  39. I expect the non- oil having people to keep us "Negros " Blacks ' an even they own kind away from Water . You are the Devil ……….

  40. imagine if this guy of the town had a brain to build there own bottled water brand and kick nestle out they take the cash made to give to there community.. no brainer

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