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Published on May 27, 2024
Environmental Groups Accuse BlueTriton of Harming San Bernardino Wildlife, Urge California to ActSource: Google Street View

Environmental activists are aiming at BlueTriton Brands, the company behind Arrowhead bottled water, accusing it of devastating the wildlife habitat in the San Bernardino Mountains, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. A coalition of environmental groups have petitioned the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to investigate BlueTriton's water extraction processes, according to a lawyer for the Story of Stuff Project, Rachel Doughty; the company's siphoning of water from Strawberry Creek she said, has left the ecosystem high and dry, depriving endangered species of a vital lifeline.

Despite legal battles and a State Water Resources Control Board order halting unauthorized diversions of water from local springs, BlueTriton has pressed on and recently sued to reverse the decision, according to the KTLA report, the company argues that it has the right to the disputed water sources. In defense of their practices, BlueTriton claims to be a steward of sustainable water management, a statement that positions them as somehow aligned with the public interest despite the allegations of environmental damage and the contest of their water rights on the matter.

Steve Loe, a retired San Bernardino National Forest biologist quoted by the Los Angeles Times, stated the pressing need to restore the flow to Strawberry Creek to support the return of numerous native species, urging the state to enforce laws that would require BlueTriton to cease water extractions and kickstart the ecosystem's recovery. Historical records described how the creek once supported an array of flora and fauna before the bottling operations began, underscoring the drastic transformation of the ecosystem due to commercial activities.

The controversy surrounding the issue flared after the KTLA unearthed that the U.S. Forest Service permitted Nestlé's water extraction using a long-expired permit, this came to light in 2015 and led to public outcry resulting in the state’s investigation of the company's water rights claims, BlueTriton formerly known as Nestlé Waters North America, continues this legacy, having acquired the bottling operations in 2021 and now faces similar scrutiny.

Local activists, backed by organizations like the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club, insist that the Forest Service uphold its mandate to protect the public lands and the resources they contain, with Activist Amanda Frye asserting a change is needed to safeguard these resources for present and future generations, according to Los Angeles Times coverage. As the California Department of Fish and Wildlife reviews the petition, the outcome of this dispute will set a precedent on the intersection of environmental stewardship and commercial enterprise on public lands.