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Nestle Pipes Water from National Forest, Sparking Protests

PALM SPRINGS, Calif.— A little after 1 p.m. Sunday, a steady stream of cars pulled off Highway 18 at Lake Gregory Drive. Their occupants exited, darting across the road during traffic breaks and posting up on a dirt lot next to Grotewolds Carpet Station. Others caught rides there after meeting at a high school up the road.

Dressed in bright colors and holding homemade signs, they held hose posts for the rest of the afternoon, aiming to draw drivers’ attention to an effort to get Nestle Waters to stop pumping water out of the San Bernardino National Forest.

Local activist and organizer Glen Thompson said many people, including himself, were angry that while Nestle paid to run water pipes through the national forest, the company paid no fee for the water rights.

“In other words, Nestle receives millions of gallons of water that rightfully belong to the citizens of California at nothing,” he said. “That’s why we’re here, to let the public know that this Swiss corporation is not welcome on our mountain.”

Thompson said the company refused to meet with residents and local groups, including at a meeting at an area senior center in late January, which inspired Sunday's demonstration.

“We pay an exorbitant amount of money for the water rights to have just enough to deal with our personal use,” he said. Thompson held a sign reading “Nestle sucks our water." It featured an Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water bottle, the water for which is pumped out of the area.

Jimi Sunderland, co-coordinator for local activist network Indivisible San Bernardino Mountains, said the issue was personal for her, as she lived and was raising her children in the area.

“All this really means to me is that we want clean water,” Sunderland said. “Drinking water is a human right.”