Many of you are aware of a proposal by Nestle Waters to develop a water supply near Nathrop and it might be helpful to outline our project and report its status.

A Web site will be available within a few weeks, updated routinely with project details. In the meantime, I'd like to share some information.

To meet consumer demand for bottled water in Colorado and neighboring states, Nestle Waters trucks bottled water to this region from Southern California. We have been exploring options allowing us to transport water to Denver from Chaffee County or other in-state locations, to reduce truck miles, fuel consumption and carbon emissions.

Nestle Waters is entering the second year of evaluation of a potential spring-water development project near Nathrop. In May 2007, Nestle Waters purchased and optioned 130 acres along the Arkansas River below Fisherman's Bridge.

The land contains a number of natural springs and includes nearly a mile of frontage on either side of the river within Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, and significant bighorn sheep habitat on Sugarloaf Mountain.

Before our involvement, most of the land was listed for sale, and was recently under contract by a residential developer. If our project continues, Nestle Waters will keep the land essentially undeveloped, preserved as open space, to protect the watershed of the springs.

The project contemplates sustainable, safe pumping of as much as 200 acre-feet of groundwater annually, or approximately 0.3 cubic feet per second (three-tenths of a cfs). Compared to the average measured spring flow of about 4 cfs, proposed withdrawal is relatively small.

Impact on the Arkansas River wouldn't be measurable, even during low flow. No neighboring wells would be affected. During operation, hydrologic and environmental conditions would be continually monitored. The data will be available to the public.

To protect other water-right owners on the Arkansas River, Colorado Water Court and the State Engineer must approve a 100-percent augmentation plan for the project.

We have been working to develop partnerships within Chaffee County to solicit input on the proposed project. The Colorado Division of Wildlife has indicated it would have no adverse impact on wildlife or the environment. Colorado Trout Unlimited indicated to us they don't anticipate harm to fish population or habitat.

Water would be conveyed by buried pipeline to U.S. 285. A small, well-screened load station would transfer water to tanker trucks for delivery to Denver. The trucks are similar to those seen daily in Chaffee County which haul milk, fuel and a variety of other liquids commonly used by Coloradans.

The proposal is for as many as 25 trucks per day. A traffic impact study will be conducted and we expect it will show the increase in truck traffic and associated emissions would be negligible.

Bottled water is a packaged beverage in great demand in the United States. Colorado and the Rocky Mountain region are no exception. People are increasingly choosing bottled water as a healthful alternative to soda pop and other sugary or carbonated beverages.

Considering the epidemic proportions of human obesity and diabetes, Nestle Waters believes people drinking more water is a good trend. Bottled water is a necessary product during natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes or disease outbreaks. Nestle Waters has a long history of supporting disaster relief.

Nestle Waters has a strong and demonstrated commitment to minimizing our environmental footprint. We are a highly efficient user of water compared to any other beverage producer. During the past 15 years, Nestle Waters reduced plastic use by 40 percent. Our Arrowhead eco-shape bottle is the lightest weight plastic bottle of any beverage, using 30 percent less plastic than the average half-liter bottle. The bottle and dye-free cap are 100 percent recyclable.

We expect to submit permit applications to Chaffee County soon, and look forward to the process to demonstrate Nestle Waters' commitment to "doing the project right," by identifying and mitigating potential adverse impacts. Our preliminary scientific research indicates this will be a low impact project.

We will continue working with stakeholders, including neighbors, regulators and local leaders, to determine how our project can be improved to best meet needs of the community. Compared to the real development pressures the area is experiencing, we believe our project could be one sustainable alternative for preserving and protecting Chaffee County.

Bruce Lauerman is Natural Resources Manager for Nestle Waters North America.