Go to Site Index See "Articles" main page
8th September 2017
...continued from Part 2

“It’s complicated – one, because it involves both groundwater and the interaction of groundwater and surface water in particular,” Petruzzelli said, “and two, because it involves very old water rights. And investigations involving old water rights are always difficult because of the old historical record.”

He said a “significant volume of documentation” is involved and he doesn’t know when the investigation will be finished.

For Nestlé’s part, Lawrence said the company has responded to every request from state regulators and is working with them to ensure they have all the information they need.

“The chain of title of the Arrowhead Water Rights is well documented and clearly establishes that Nestlé Waters North America is the legal and valid successor-in-interest,” Lawrence said. “These rights have remained unchallenged for nearly a century.”

Challenging Nestle

Nestlé has said it holds rights that are “among the most senior water rights” in California.

Frye, however, has studied the historical documents in detail and thinks the company doesn't have valid rights. She said the 1865 possessory claim cited by the company staked out 160 acres near the base of the mountains around the future hotel site, yet Nestlé is drawing water from locations about 2.5 miles away and much higher in the mountains, at an elevation of around 5,000 feet.

"We’ll have to have the state water resource board rule on that," she said. "I’d like to see the water returned and stay in the forest, where it’s supposed to be."

As Frye and Earney walked on, they passed oaks, California bay laurels and elderberry bushes. Butterflies floated through the brush, and Steller's jays let out loud calls from the trees.

Reaching one of the water tunnels that was built in 1940s, Frye stood by its metal door.

She pointed out there's no mention in the FDA regulations of tunnels being an approved method of collecting spring water.

“They’ve gotten away with this because nobody can see,” Frye said. “Somebody’s going to have to sort it out.”

The locked metal door was cool to the touch. Through vents in the door, the sound of running water came drifting out.

“It sounds like a bathroom and someone left the sink running. It just goes on every day like this,” Frye said.

“They’re taking a lot of water out of this mountain. It’s sick. And the plants and animals suffer,” she said. “And you know, why should you have somebody, especially a foreign corporation, come in and steal from America? These are our natural resources and they belong to us, and our forest.”

Ian James covers water and environmental issues for The Desert Sun. Contact him at or on Twitter: TDSIanJames