Although Starbucks is committed to donate a small percent of the price of any bottled water it sells to bringing potable water to third world communities, the company’s bottling plant in California uses spring water from one of the areas most affected by the drought. Moreover, the coffee giant gets the water free of charge because in the Golden State, bottling companies do not pay for the groundwater they captate.
Ethos Water, Starbuck’s bottling plant, is located in Merced County, Calif., which is currently one of the many regions affected by “exceptional drought” conditions, according to an official panel. Californians living there have to restrict their water use for their household needs on a daily basis, while many farms in the region see their crops go dry.
Ethos Water, which was founded 13 years ago, was purchased by Starbucks in 2005. Ever since, Starbucks promised that it would donate 5 cents to the Ethos Water Fund for every bottle it would sell . The company announced in 2008 that their Ethos Water customers were not only quenching their thirst, but they were doing it for other individuals, as well. In the meantime, the fund received more than $12.3 million.
Earlier last month, Merced people complained that a water bottling plant run by Safeway was bottling and selling their precious groundwater out to communities that didn’t had a severe drought problem. The bottler also supplies Starbucks with its Ethos water. Moreover, no one really knows how much water the company consumes because the data is confidential.
But Starbucks gets its spring water from a spring in Baxter, which is located north of Merced in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Baxter also struggles with out-of-the-ordinary drought conditions. Older locals even told reporters that they had never experienced a similar drought before.
A Starbucks spokesperson recently disclosed that his company’s California bottling plants use only springs which are not used by any communities. But geologists explain that Californians are still threatened by bottling plants even if they capture remote springs because water cannot reach downstream users anymore.
Additionally, California laws do not improve the situation either. Although water bottlers have to monitor the health of the water they use and the recharge rate of the springs, records on wells are secret, while anyone interested in a review requires permission from owners.
Besides the Baxter spring water it sells, Starbucks also commercializes bottled water from the Merced city area. According to the International Bottled Water Association, a bottler needs more than 1.30 liters to produce a single liter of bottled water. Other experts claim that the figures may be even more worrisome if we take into account all packaging involved.
Recently, Merced County regulators passed a bill that would restrict even more the ground water use, but we do not yet know whether the new rules would impact Starbucks’ business.
But Californians, who are already buying bottled water to survive, do not plan to tolerate any longer the bottling plants that are making profit despite long-term consequences. Several protests are already scheduled to occur outside Nestlé’s bottling plant in Sacramento.
Image Source: Yukon News