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After 6-Year Battle, McCloud, CA Defeats Water Bottling Giant Nestle

How a tiny town sent a multinational packing.
 
 
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We've been covering this issue for the last several years, and it was welcome news to hear that Nestle Waters North American has decided to scrap their plans entirely to bottle spring water in McCloud, CA, up near Mount Shasta. McCloud Watershed Council, along with help from groups like Food and Water Watch and Corporate Accountability International, have been fighting six years against Nestle's planned pumping, that at one point would have allowed them to take 200 million gallons of water.

Leslie Samuelrich, Deputy Director of Corporate Accountability International explained what happened:

The grassroots campaign to keep water under local control began the night of September 29, 2003. At a town meeting officials slammed the gavel, and Nestlé Waters North America was the proud new owner of the town's water for 50 years...with an option for 50 more. The five member McCloud Community Service District board had been pressured by Nestlé to take stealth action to approve the deal. This gave the town's 1,300 residents but a few days to review and consider the proposal prior to the meeting - hardly enough time to get organized.

But get organized they did. Debra and community members quickly formed McCloud Watershed Council (MWC) a grassroots group, working in concert with California Trout, Trout Unlimited, Concerned McCloud Citizens and other organizations to respond to Nestlé's plans to build a 1,000,000 square foot bottling plant with untold consequences for the local environment (Nestlé initially failed to conduct a requisite environmental review). Collectively, the coalition hunkered down to protect local water resources and the surrounding environment of Siskiyou County for generations to come.

Due to the dedicated organizing of residents, the initial contract was ruled null and void by the Siskiyou County Superior Court. But Nestlé continued to invest millions in public relations, lobbying and legal efforts to overcome this early obstacle to its bottling plans. National media exposure, continued grassroots mobilization, lawsuits, testimony before Congress and comments by the California Attorney General finally pressured Nestlé to honor the wishes of McCloud residents.

This victory is not only one for Northern Californians, but it shows a new trend of small communities taking on, and beating, multinationals when it comes to water. As Food & Water Watch said in a statement:

Tara Lohan is a managing editor at AlterNet.

 
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