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Saturday, 11 July 2015

water, water everywhere?

Peter Breback-Letmathe in 2007:

Some hard facts to swallow…

     A large water tanker truck typically carries about 33,300 liters.
Nestlé will be permitted to extract 1.6 million litres per day from the well in Elora (Ontario, Canada). That works out to be approximately 51 trucks lumbering through our village per day. ( By the way, that’s enough water for 16,000 people—according to Nestlé (former) CEO Peter Brabeck-Letmathe’s numbers; see below.)

    Now... Here. Wash it down with this:

“The price of a litre of bottled water in B.C. is often higher than a litre of gasoline.
     However, the price paid by the world’s largest bottled water company for taking 265 million litres of fresh water every year from a well in the Fraser Valley — not a cent. Because of B.C.’s lack of groundwater regulation, Nestlé Waters Canada — a division of the multi-billion-dollar Switzerland-based Nestlé Group, the world’s largest food company — is not required to measure, report, or pay a penny for the millions of litres of water it draws from Hope and then sells across Western Canada.
     According to the provincial Ministry of Environment, 'B.C. is the only jurisdiction in Canada that doesn’t regulate groundwater use. The province does not license groundwater, charge a rental for groundwater withdrawals or track how much bottled water companies are taking from wells,” said a Ministry of Environment spokesperson in an email to The Province.”
O Canada (August 14, 2013)
Read more…

And then, later in the year, new British Columbian (provincial) legislation resulted in this:

“The new Water Sustainability Act will replace the 1909 Water Act, and it will mean B.C. will no longer be the only province in the country not regulating groundwater use. […]
     Under the new rules, large-scale users now able to use water without limit and without cost will pay an annual fee and 85 cents for every 1,000 cubic metres of groundwater used.
     For example, a Nestle Canada plant in Hope, B.C., that bottles an estimated 71 million imperial gallons — 319.5 million litres — of water for sale annually, would pay about $265 […]”.
 — Huffington Post (The emphasis [bold] is mine.)
Read more…

In an interview, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe CEO of Nestlé (from 2005), and featured in the documentary “We feed the world" by Erwin Wagenhofer, (February 25/13) said:

“[…] we have something approaching a shibboleth that everything that comes from nature is good. A good example is the organic movement. ‘Organic is now best.’ But organic is not best.”

Here he sidesteps the vacuity of such a blanket statement by giving us “good news” about something else:

“After 15 years of eating GM food products in the USA, not one single case of illness has occurred from eating them to date. And inspite of this we’re all so uneasy about it, that something might happen to us. It’s hypocrisy more than anything else.”

But recent research has shown otherwise:

“An agency of the World Health Organization has declared that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, ‘probably’ causes cancer in people. […] Glyphosate, introduced in the 1970s, is the most widely used herbicide in the world, sprayed on farms, in forests, on road sides and in gardens, and has a reputation for being benign, as pesticides go. It is now generic and used in many products, not only Roundup.
     Use of glyphosate has soared in the last two decades because of Monsanto’s [genetically modified] Roundup Ready crops, which account for most corn and soybeans grown in the United States. These crops are genetically engineered to withstand glyphosate, allowing farmers to spray their fields without harming the crops.”
— The New York Times

In the 2005 interview Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe goes on to say:

“There’s that lovely old Austrian folk song: ‘The dear cattle need water, hollera, holleri.’ if you remember.
     Water is, of course, the most important raw material we have today in the world. it’s a question of whether we should privatize the normal water supply for the population. And there are two different opinions on the matter. The one opinion, which I think is extreme, is represented by the NGOs, who bang on about declaring water… um… a public right. This means that as a human being, you should have a right to water.
     That’s an extreme solution.
     And the other view says, that water is a foodstuff and like any other foodstuff, it should have a market value.
     Personally I believe it’s better to give a foodstuff a value so that we’re all aware that it has its price, and that one should take specific measures for the part of the population that has no access to this water. And there are many possibilities there." (Once more, the emphasis [bold] is mine.)

Then on the Nestlé website, in a stage-managed, scripted video message (August 27/13) he refutes his previous (and I would say more candid) statements with this:

“I have always supported the human right to water. Everyone should have enough clean, safe water to meet their fundamental daily needs. About 5 to 100 litres per day. But not to fill a pool or wash a car. There is the difference.
     We must rethink the way we think about water. By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in regions without water. Water scarcity is the greatest challenge we face today, and we need to start recognizing water as a precious resource. Therefore water should be better managed, should be better valued, and has to be better preserved.
     If we give water value, there will be an incentive to invest in looking after our supplies. […] As a food producer we [at Nestlé] believe in the longterm sustainability of this resource.”

Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe seems to be a bit selective about the value of water. On the one hand, it’s worth a few dollars per million litres; but when he’s trying to make Nestlé look good, and feel all warm and fuzzy about itself, he says water is “[…] by far the most valuable resource on this planet” and that “water is a local issue." (See below; again, the emphasis is mine.)

“[...] Water is a local issue, there are no global solutions; at the same time, it is a horizontal and complex issue for which isolated piece-meal actions will have little or no effect. Indeed, once the problem of overdraft in a watershed has been identified, the active co-operation of all stakeholders is needed - in a context of strong government leadership. This is the approach taken by the 2030 Water Resources Group which I chair.”
Singapore International Water Week
Read more…

Water—by far the most valuable resource on this planet—is treated as if did not have any value at all. We often do not even know the cost of providing it; the true number is buried under open and hidden subsidies, taxes, and the sunk costs of municipal and regional water and irrigation departments. This is particularly true for water used in agriculture.
     The problem is not that farmers use water; the problem is that they very frequently use it inefficiently. We see sprinklers turning at noon, unlined irrigation canals where water is seeping away faster than it actually flows, and a lack of both interest and incentives to invest in drip irrigation. Water, too often, has no price. It is seen and treated as a free good, or the price for farmers is far below what others have to pay.
     Full cost recovery must be implemented for all those who today get massively subsidized municipal tap water (also to fill their swimming pools) and who can actually afford to pay. This is necessary to finance the huge amount of infrastructure required to reduce leakage losses in municipal water supplies—up to 70 percent—and to provide the financial means to extend them to those who do not have access.”
McKinsey Quarterly
Read more…

Here's the video on the Nestlé web site from August 2013:

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