David v. Goliath: Help Michigan Citizens Protect Their Water from Nestle's Bottling Operations

Multinational giant Nestle is trying to out-money Michigan citizens -- help stop the corporate water grab.

Time is ticking. It's been nine years now since Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation first went to court to stop Nestlé from pumping millions of gallons from a rural Michigan wildlife preserve. And the outcome of a court hearing on July 6 will determine whether our judicial system can work to protect community water rights.

There are two things at stake:

The first is the outcome of the case, which will determine whether or not Nestlé can continue to drain large quantities of water from rural Michigan, narrowing streams, exposing mud flats, and reducing flow levels. A Nestlé victory guarantees the world's largest bottler access to water at the expense of local ecosystems and businesses, such as tourism, that depend on the watershed's long-term viability.

The second is whether Nestlé will win merely on the basis of financial might rather than on the basis of what's right. Going to court is expensive, especially against Nestlé, a massive global corporation that can easily pour millions into defending its profits. The Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation have dug deep, running bake sales and raffles to garner the resources needed to stand up to Nestlé in court through several rounds of Nestlé appeals. Now, as the community is heading into the most crucial round of the Nestlé battle, they are in urgent need of additional funds to keep them in the courtroom through the close of the summer hearing -- the legal fees are no joke, amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The case could have been over in 2003, when a judge determined that Nestlé's withdrawal of 400 gallons of water a minute was having a negative impact on several local streams and ponds, and called a halt to the pumping. But the pumping never stopped. Nestlé appealed and hired its own scientists to produce studies that validated its operations. To counter Nestlé's efforts, the community has had to continue to hire lawyers and experts and the fees are piling up. Nestlé has run the community dry in more ways than one.

This case underscores the importance of water resources remaining in public control and decisions about water being made locally and democratically...water is too precious to hand over to Goliath.

For more information or to help the Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation get into the courtroom, click here.


Leslie Samuelrich is deputy director of Corporate Accountability International.
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