Saturday, October 31, 2009

Just Thinking Out Loud...

Just thinking out of the box here, but I've been interested in the Nestle bottled water flap happening across the country of late.  Seems that Nestle has been seeking water sources for its bottled water at various places in the US, and have been vehemently opposed just about everywhere - Newport, WI; Mecosta County, MI; McCloud, CA; Shapleigh, MA; and Salida, CO to name just the most recent skirmishes.  While I'm not remembering all the water quantities Nestle has been bargaining for in all the locations mentioned, in Salida, CO that figure is from 200 to 300 acre feet (AF) a year - according to the newspaper account I read.

Here in our part of the world (NW Kansas) 300 AF is the proverbial drop in the bucket.  Not only that, but if done right, such an endeavor could actually improve the groundwater situation in the area - provided Nestle was willing to buy, say, 500 AF of existing consumptive water use and convert it to the 300 AF of use they need.  The exchange would actually reduce the local draw on the aquifer to the mutual benefit of all.  Think of the positive PR this kind of transaction would produce.  Moreover, with the water rights as they exist now, Nestle would be dealing with individual water right owners - not local governments which, in the cases mentioned above, have apparently been too subject to politics and pressure.

Most of the other arguments made by the opposition don't seem to apply here either.  Our consumptive water now is largely being exported in the grains we grow by irrigation anyway.  There are no rivers, lakes or wetlands which can be affected by the water use that have not already been affected by the current water use and would be expected to actually improve with the net reduction of water use proposed.  The environmental impacts of the plant itself can and should be dealt with appropriately for our local comfort.  One of the solutions to our current water problems is to reduce consumptive water use while increasing the economic return on the lower usage.  This arrangement seems worth exploring, at least.

On the other hand, the efficacy of bottled water itself is a tough one.  The full resource footprint of the plastic bottles does not go away, and the morality of supporting a company that continues to "sell" people on the benefits of bottled water over regular tap water is, well, embarrassing. 

I don't know what's right, but there would seem to be some distinct advantages to Nestle to look here.  No, this is not an invitation - I'm just thinking out loud.  I'd welcome any reactions to these thoughts - or setting me straight if need be.

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