Why give Nestle a pass?

Published: Monday, Mar. 24, 2014 - 12:00 am

Q: Why is it that Nestle is allowed to take an unlimited amount of municipal tap water at a flat rate and bottle it for resale at a markup of 1000+ percent while the rest of us are told to cut back? – Debra Sharkey, Sacramento, CA

A: Nestle uses a tiny portion of the city’s water. If every Sacramento resident cut water use by 1 percent, the city would save far more water than if the Nestle plant shut down.

The City Council approved the Nestle plant in 2009. It has the capacity to draw 80 million gallons of city water a year, Nestle officials said at the time.

Sacramento’s residents and businesses use about 39 billion gallons of water a year, or roughly 106 million gallons a day. So even if the Nestle plant ran at full capacity every day and consumed only municipal water, it would use less in a year than the city’s customers use in a day.

Other factories in the region use more water than Nestle. For example, Aerojet uses an average of 900 million gallons of untreated water supplied by the city of Folsom each year, according to Folsom’s urban water management plan.

Asked if Sacramento has told Nestle to cut back water use, city utilities spokeswoman Jessica Hess said the city is requiring all its customers to reduce water use by 20 percent. But, she added, “we have not asked any of our commercial customers to cut back water use that is essential to their business.”

Nestle spokeswoman Jane Lazgin said Nestle has cut water waste at the Sacramento plant by about a third since opening in 2010. It did this, in part, she said, by recovering and reusing water used during the purification process. All told, she said, the plant uses about 1.3 liters of water for every liter of water produced. By comparison, she said, soda bottlers typically use 2 liters of water for every liter of cola produced, and beer bottlers typically use 4 liters of water for every liter of beer produced.

Submit your question for The Sacramento Bee’s water team.

Call The Bee’s Phillip Reese, (916) 321-1137.

Read more articles by Phillip Reese

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