Nestle extracted roughly 32 million gallons of water from Southern California's San Bernardino National Forest in 2016 and sold it as Arrowhead bottled water. An investigation has determined the company's permits only allow it to take about 8.5 million gallons per year. The AP reports the news is being hailed by opponents to Nestle's action—and by Nestle. The company reportedly described itself as pleased that the State Water Resources Control Board's report confirms it has the right to access "a significant amount" of water. "We will continue to operate lawfully according to these existing rights and will comply fully with California law," Nestle said in a statement.
The longer view isn't quite as favorable sounding: NPR reports that between 1947 and 2015, Nestle extracted an average 62.6 million gallons annually, with the rights unchanged at 8.5 million. Nestle told the state its claim to the water dates to an 1865 claim held by the owner of the Arrowhead Springs Hotel; the board found that claim was limited to "riparian"—meaning at the water's origin—use "and is not valid for Nestle’s current appropriative diversion and use of water" from the forest. The company was notified of the findings—the result of an investigation begun in 2016 and borne from complaints spurred by the state's drought—on Dec. 20. A letter accompanying the findings recommended that Nestle immediately halt unauthorized distributions and outlined steps it recommends the company take over the next 18 months. (Read more Nestle stories.)