Dear Editor:

In Merle Baranczyk’s article about attending the GOP Lincoln Day dinner, he briefly mentioned that County Commissioner Rusty Granzella, reported on Nestlé Waters at the event. The following day the paper reported on Nestlé Water’s request to renew their permit, which allows the Swiss company to draw 65 million gallons of water per year from wells near Ruby Mountain.

I believe this was the first time the paper reported on Nestlé Waters’ permit renewal request, except for publishing a notice that the hearing date would be Jan. 21. The hearing date was changed to 12:30 p.m. April 21 in the Buena Vista Community Center.

The article did not mention that the hearing is open to the public or give details of the time and place. What was apparent from the article is that the county planning manager, Jon Roorda, has a positive relationship with Nestlé.

He said Nestlé Waters was “exceedingly responsive” to the county despite the most glaringly obvious fact that their last two annual reports, which per their permit are due to the county by March 1 every year, have been late. The county relieved Nestlé in 2018 from the condition that they hire 50 percent of its drivers locally.

A county staff report assessing Nestlé’s compliance over the 10-year span of their permit is not due until just one week prior to the public hearing.

While no one is denying that Nestlé Waters legally purchased the land and a junior water right, many citizens are questioning if the benefits outweigh the losses. The 1041 permit, required for such development in areas of statewide interest, requires that “benefits accruing county and citizens outweigh loss of resources or losses of opportunity to develop resources.” In an attempt to satisfy that criteria, conditions were added to the permit.

Nestlé’s seemingly philanthropic giving to local organizations is required, it’s not just because they are a good neighbor. The multibillion-dollar company has an extensive record of environmental and humanitarian abuses.

Is the approximately $250,000 they gave over a period of 10 years to our area schools adequate? Do we even want the approximately 300,000 water bottles they donated to local events? Nestle promised a conservation land easement over 10 years ago. Should we trust that now when their permit is under scrutiny – and they are scrambling to do so – that they will follow through?

Fortunately, the water Nestlé removes from the aquifer is “augmented” with reservoir water from Twin Lakes. An article, given the headline “Colorado water rights as private property tights,” did recently cover some of the complexities of water law.

But if Nestlé actually used all the water it is permitted to take, and if climate change were factored in, would the water augmentation to the Arkansas River prevent measurable diminishment to the aquifer? The replacement water is deemed drinkable, but is it the same quality as the spring water extracted? Is trucking water out of the basin “beneficial” by any definition?

Jennifer Swacina,

Salida