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Nestle's trail of broken promises and environmental destruction

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Plastic water bottle on the ground. Image credit: Brian Yurasits/Unsplash

Wellington Water Watchers and front-line communities from Maine, California, Michigan, Colorado, and Florida are calling on regulatory agencies and legislators to closely examine Nestlé's sale of its North American operations to the private equity firm One Rock Capital Partners.

Nestlé, the world's largest food and beverage corporation, is seeking a payout by selling its North American bottled water brands in a more than $4-billion deal. Despite this sale, Nestlé continues to fight for extensions and expansions to its water permits across the entire continent in an effort to package a profitable business venture for the next corporation. This massive private transfer of "water wealth" takes place at a historic juncture when Wall Street is showing great interest in "water futures" trading.

"[Ontario Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks] Jeff Yurek must not allow Nestlé's current permits to take water for bottling to be transferred to a private equity firm," said Rob Case, chairperson of Wellington Water Watchers.

Case called on Minister Yurek to extend the current moratorium on new permits to bottle water beyond the current April 1 deadline and commit to phasing out permits to bottle water in Ontario.

In communities across North America, the pattern continues to repeat itself: Nestlé enters a town making promises of "local" job opportunities and offering assurances that it will maintain the highest sustainability and environmental standards for its water-bottling operations. However, over time, surrounding communities experience a trail of broken promises, environmental degradation and then an uphill struggle to regain access to their water supplies. Meanwhile, Nestlé makes billions of dollars per year mining and exporting groundwater sources, depleting local aquafirs while paying next to nothing in royalties.

All too often this commodification of water sold in single-use plastic packaging has accelerated a waste crisis. Now, the global pandemic and increasing droughts and wildfires across North America have made it crystal clear that water should be held in the public common, and stewarded by and for the people, with respect for all living things.

Join water protector allies at an international rally online Thursday, March 18 at 7 p.m. EDT (RSVP here) and hear from grassroots leaders whose communities have been impacted by Nestlé's water extractions. U.S. Representative Rashida Tlaib, musical guests, and celebrity endorsers will part of the event live-streamed by Wellington Water Watchers and The Story of Stuff.

Wellington Water Watchers is a volunteer-run, non-profit organization based in Guelph, Ontario.

Doreen Nicoll is a freelance writer, teacher, social activist and member of several community organizations working diligently to end poverty, hunger and gendered violence.

Image credit: Brian Yurasits/Unsplash

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