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Executive Summary for June 29th

In this weekly roundup, we analyze key water developments around the West, including the Forest Service’s decision on a permit for Nestlé, federal money for drought projects in the West and a poll of San Francisco voters’ thoughts on water.

Published on June 29, 2018 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Nestlé Permit Decision

Water-bottling giant Nestlé is likely to continue to pipe water from the San Bernardino National Forest for at least the next few years, after a decision Wednesday by the U.S. Forest Service.

The issue has been under examination for the last few years after public outcry following a 2015 Desert Sun investigation found that Nestlé was using a permit that expired in 1988 to pump water from the forest for water bottling under its Arrowhead Springs label.

The Desert Sun reported on Wednesday that the Forest Services has offered a three-year permit to Nestlé to continue is operations in the San Bernardino Forest and the company has 60 days to accept the permit.

“The Forest Service said the watershed’s health is currently rated as ‘impaired’ and that water extraction will be allowed ‘when there is water available consistent with the forest’s Land Management Plan,’” the Desert Sun reported.

Nestlé issued a statement following the announcement. “Nestlé Waters North America appreciates the time and effort the U.S. Forest Service dedicated to this decision regarding the permit renewal process at Arrowhead Springs,” the statement said. “We will carefully review the specifics of the decision, and will continue to comply with all permit requirements.”

Funding for Drought Resilience

The Bureau of Reclamation this week awarded $8.3 million to projects in California, Utah and New Mexico to better manage water resources for drought.

The money came through the U.S. Department of the Interior’s WaterSMART initiative. In New Mexico, Elephant Butte Irrigation District in Las Cruces will receive $180,670 to help modernize infrastructure to aid stormwater harvesting, aquifer recharge and watershed flows. Utah’s Ephraim City will receive $645,255 for a new well to boost the city’s water supply by 28 percent.

The rest will go to 13 projects in California, several of which include groundwater recharge efforts.

“Helping western states prepare and build resiliency for future drought is an essential part of Reclamation’s 116-year history,” Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman said. “By proactively planning for drought, communities are able to reduce its impact and improve their ability to recover once the rain and snow start to fall.”

San Francisco Water Poll

How much do San Franciscans know about their water and what motivates their conservation? A new poll commissioned by the nonprofit Tuolumne River Trust found out.

The poll, conducted by the Social Science Research Center, interviewed 402 San Francisco voters. The vast majority, 93 percent, said they conserved during the recent drought, and 94 percent of those respondents were motivated, in part, by helping to protect the environment.

And while three-quarters of the respondents knew that Hetch Hetchy, the major water storage reservoir of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), was where their water came from, only 12 percent knew the actual source of that water was the Tuolumne River.

The Tuolumne River Trust would like to see the SFPUC manage its water supply operations with more attention to the environmental needs of the river, which it says was shorted during the last drought.

“Unfortunately, the water we conserved during the recent five-year drought did not benefit the environment,” said Peter Drekmeier, policy director for the Tuolumne River Trust. “The SFPUC has opposed measures, such as revisions to the Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan, aimed at restoring the San Francisco Bay-Delta and rivers that feed it.”

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