Nearly 40 protesters held signs and chanted slogans at the Nestle Water bottling plant in Sacramento saying the company is exploiting the drought. A similar protest was held at a Nestle facility in Southern California.
"Right now, we have nearly 2 million in California without clean access to water, so how is it that they’re allowed to pump as much as they want from our water to sell it back to us for a profit while people don’t even have water," said Tim Molina of the Courage Campaign, one of a coalition of groups participating in the protest.
The group presented what it said were 500,000 signatures asking that Nestle shut down its water bottling operation.
Other businesses use water to produce a product like wineries, canneries and manufacturers of all sorts. Protesters admitted that Nestle was singled out as a symbol of corporate greed.
But Nestle has always contended that it uses a fraction of a percent of the water supply in the state, some say as much as just two golf courses. Nestle says it has invested millions in water-saving measures at its water and food plants, and that it is fulfilling a consumer need.
"They’re drinking more water than sugary beverages today. Bottled water has the lowest water footprint of any packaged beverage, and we believe we're bringing value by meeting that demand," said Larry Lawrence, natural resources manager for Nestle Water.
Still, the drought has created a stark contrast to the bottled water business.
"The state has asked us to cut back our water use by 28 percent as a town, and I think it's incredibly unfair that a company like Nestle is not be asked to cut back," said Truckee City Council Member Morgan Goodwin.
The coalition of protesting groups says it will organize a boycott of Nestle Water and other products if it doesn't agree to its demands.
The State Water Board has been reluctant to reign in the commercial use of water to create products for the economy. It says bottled water is actaully an alternative source of drinking water for consumers.