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Multinationals Exploit Groundwater Sources, and People Suffer

Privatizing water supplies is only a pretext for multinational corporations to take control of the precious resources of the people at large, activists in US charge. With sales of over $35 billion worldwide in the bottled water market, corporations are doing whatever it takes to buy up pristine springs in some of the country's most beautiful places.

Especially notorious is Nestl, which controls one-third of the U.S. market and sells 70 different brand names -- such as Arrowhead, Calistoga, Deer Park, Perrier, Poland Spring and Ice Mountain. It draws its supplies from as many as 75 springs located all over the US. Nestl's latest target is McCloud, located in the shadow of Northern California's snow-capped Mt. Shasta. The town of McCloud has worked hard to try to reinvent itself in recent years. McCloud is a former timber town that is learning how to stand on its own feet again after the lumber companies bottomed out and took off.

The town has less than 1,400 people and a high school of four students. But one thing McCloud does have is an abundance of water -- pristine spring water that comes from Shasta's glaciers and feeds some of the world's best fly-fishing rivers. Four years ago, residents learned that Nestl, the world's largest food and beverage company, intended to build a 1 million-square-foot water-bottling facility in McCloud. Without any public input or environmental impact assessment, the multinational was given a 100-year contract to pump 1,600 acre-feet of spring water a year and a seemingly unlimited amount of groundwater.

Although residents were caught off guard by the company's interest, they have been organizing and litigating and educating. "There is concern about traffic, air pollution, what is going to happen to our water," said Debra Anderson, head of the McCloud Watershed Council, a citizen group that organized in the wake of the announcement. "What if there is a drought? They have the right to con
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