The Forest Service needs better policies before giving water away to bottling companies

National forests support some of the most pristine groundwater and springs in the country – at least that’s what the most successful water bottling companies advertise. Current policies leave these springs exposed to exploitation, especially during droughts, which are becoming more intense, like in California.

Strawberry Creek arises from the ground in San Bernardino National Forest, providing access to one of the only areas where fishing is allowed in the San Jacinto Mountains. Cherry Lake in the Stanislaus National Forest, supplies water to San Francisco residents and supports a substantial trout population. Big Springs in the Shasta Trinity National Forest, where the Sacramento River originates, is a major source of water for California residents. Oxbow springs in Mt. Hood National Forest in Oregon, is a source of water for salmon hatcheries and drinking water to downstream communities.

Pristine waters like these are hard to find, and are now or will be used by water bottling companies to pump tens to hundreds of million gallons of water a year out of the springs and aquifers that support them.

Other springs in national forests across the country have been tapped for use by bottled water companies, including Nicolet National Forest in Wisconsin, Ocala National Forest in Florida, Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee, Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia, Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina, and Sumter National Forest in South Carolina. Information on the consequences is hard to come by.

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