The cost to Chaffee County and the state of extending Nestlé’s 1041 permit greatly outweighs the benefits to residents. The international consumption giant Nestlé should not be granted a 10-year extension on the 1041 permit.
Bottled water, which is generally not any safer than municipal water, results in less water in aquifers and watersheds where it is needed to help us adapt to the changing climate. It wastes water and petroleum resources; causes air, water, and plastic pollution; and provides no useful service to residents.
Humans rely on adequate supplies of clean water, free of disease-causing chemicals and germs, to be healthy. Local municipal water systems are stringently regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and closely monitored by the state Public Health and Environment department, requiring that:
1) The water source must be frequently and rigorously tested for a wide variety of chemicals and germs,
2) The water is purified by additional methods and tested again before being piped to homes and businesses.
Bottled water, regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a food, is generally safe: most bottled water is tap water with some additives. However, bottled water labeled as sourced from “artesian well water,” “spring water,” ”well water,” or “mineral water” is not guaranteed to be free of a common parasite called cryptosporidium, which can cause severe stomach upset and can be very dangerous for people with compromised immune systems.
Moreover, test results for municipal water systems are freely available on water manager websites and typically sent to users annually. Municipal water supplies for Buena Vista and Salida meet or exceed all regulatory requirements.
Projections for changes from climate change were not included in the assessments performed 10 years ago. Average temperatures in Colorado have already increased by 2.5°F in the past 50 years; 2°F in the past 30 years, with a mid-range projection of another 2°F expected by 2050.
Overall, in the past 20 years, Colorado has received less precipitation than usual, which is compounded by the need for additional moisture to offset higher temperatures. For the projected 4°F rise by 2050, we need at least 10 percent more precipitation than historical amounts to maintain adequate moisture levels for plants and animals.
While year-to-year variability in overall precipitation and snowpack is likely, research projects overall a decrease in streamflows for all of Colorado’s rivers and increasing droughts requiring water managers and land use decision makers to plan accordingly. Drought leads to more beetle-killed trees, which leads to more wildfires, which leads to less water held in the soil and more water lost to runoff, which leads to greater drought conditions.
Moreover, climate change not only leads to more forest wildfires but also inhibits the survival and growth of new trees after a fire. Higher temperatures and less spring snowpack will push this vicious cycle even further.
The environmental cost of producing this bottled water is irrationally high. Nestlé legally pumps up to 64 million gallons per year, filling about 500 million 16.9 oz plastic bottles. Stretched end to end, the bottles filled from Ruby Mountain Spring could wrap the Earth almost 3 times every year!!
Moreover, for a 16.9 oz bottle, it takes at least twice as much water and one-half cup of petroleum to produce the plastic bottle. That is about 2000 times the energy required to produce the same amount of tap water. Climate change is threatening our local water supplies while Americans contributed to climate change by emitting 24.5 million tons of carbon dioxide from our collective bottled water consumption in 2019 alone!
In conclusion, everything that affects our environment affects our health. We cannot be healthy people if we live in an unhealthy environment.
Bottled water is not needed in Colorado. Bottled water is not safer than tap water. Bottled water takes far more resources than tap water, including water and energy, harms our health by putting more plastic into our environment, contributes to more climate change, and reduces our ability to adapt to the changing environment.
It is clear why we need to be increasingly protective of the existing water in our watershed. Residents, ranchers, farmers, recreation industry members, all need adequate supplies of clean water to survive and to adapt to climate change. Giving our water away to a predatory industry that is not necessary, requires large amounts of petroleum and additional water to exist, and removes the water from our watershed, is only harming our chances of successful adaptation.
Less rain and higher temperatures mean farmers and ranchers need to rely more heavily on groundwater for crop production, and we may need to rely on aquifers like this one for municipal water when other sources we use do not recharge as they have historically.
For our communities’ health, I strongly urge you to let the Chaffee County Commissioners know that you oppose the 10-year extension for Nestle’s permit. Visit www.Nestleave.org for more information.
By Cindy Parker
Editor’s Note: Cindy Parker M.D., MPH is a physician recently retired from Johns Hopkins University where she held joint faculty appointments in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering in the Bloomberg School of Public Health, and in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. She co-directed the Program on Global Sustainability and Health and was the Associate Director of the university-wide, interdisciplinary, Environment, Energy, Sustainability and Health Institute. She is board certified in Public Health and General Preventive Medicine. She was the lead author of the first book about the health impacts of climate change written for a lay audience, Parker C. and Shapiro S. “Climate Chaos: Your Health at Risk: What You Can Do to Protect Yourself and Your Family”. Praeger: Westport, CT. 2008.