Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD) is considering an application from Cascade Locks and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) for a water exchange that would allow the town to sell ODFW's spring water to Nestl? to bottle.|
"Citizens from the Gorge and across Oregon are deeply concerned about the social and environmental impacts of selling our water to a multinational corporation," said Lori Ann Burd, Restore Mt. Hood Campaign Manager and Staff Attorney for Bark. "This water comes onto state land from Mt. Hood National Forest, so it really belongs to all of us, and Nestl?'s plan is not an appropriate use of this precious resource."
Earlier this summer, a United States Geological Service (USGS) report that found ground water levels are falling across the entire Columbia Plateau, a region that includes Cascade Locks. According to the USGS, groundwater levels in the Eastern Columbia Plateau have steeply declined over the past 25 years in 80 percent of the nearly 500 wells measured. Although the sampling did not include Cascade Locks' groundwater, this study suggests a shrinking supply of water, a resource once thought to be inexhaustible in the region.
"In an area that has always been water-rich, this USGS report is a wake-up call that the abundant supply of water Oregonians have taken for granted is diminishing," said Julia DeGraw, the Northwest organizer with Food & Water Watch and Keep Nestl? Out of the Gorge. "We should not sell our finite water supply to a corporation with a long history as a bad actor." Nestl? has asked ODFW to approve an agreement that would exchange part of ODFW's water at Oxbow Springs with an equivalent amount of well water from the city of Cascade Locks. Nestl? would then buy both the city's well and spring water to bottle under its Pure Life and Arrowhead labels, pumping an average of 167 million gallons of water out of Cascade Locks every year. While the financial details of the deal have not yet been disclosed, Nestl? has paid an average of $.00225 per gallon where it has brokered similar deals in other areas. A gallon of Nestl?'s spring water sold in single-serve plastic jugs sells for $5.30.
The lack of facts on the ground is a serious concern for Keep Nestl? out of the Gorge, a coalition of 15 environmental and social justice organizations. "How can we know what a sustainable withdrawal of water is when we don't have a map or adequate baseline data on the city of Cascade Locks' groundwater?" said DeGraw. "Approving it would be an irresponsible move that could cause serious damage to Cascade Locks' municipal drinking water source. OWRD should deny this application."
Clean, cold water from the spring is crucial for endangered fish living both inside the fish hatchery and in nearby Herman Creek, but scientists have not yet determined whether or not they would be adversely impacted by this proposal. In addition, the water bottling facility would introduce up to 200 truck trips a day to rural roads, increasing traffic and smog in the Gorge and potentially affecting tourism in Cascade Locks.
Public comments on the Nestl? water exchange should be sent to:
Water Resources Department; Attn: Transfer Section,
725 Summer St. NE, Suite A,
Salem, OR 97301-1266, Transfer Number 11109.
Public comments will close on Sept. 30, after which point it will decide whether or not to approve the exchange.
The Keep Nestl? Out of the Gorge coalition members include Food & Water Watch, Alliance for Democracy, Bark, Environment Oregon, Trout Unlimited, Columbia Group Sierra Club and Columbia Riverkeeper.
More details about the Cascade Locks water exchange can be found at http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/NoNestleinOR or on the Keep Nestl? Out of the Gorge Facebook page.