“Operation of the Nestlé Waters North America wells has not caused progressive depletion of the groundwater resources of Chaffee County,” according to a recent report by Gary Thompson, principal of W. W. Wheeler and Associates.

W.W. Wheeler is an Englewood-based water resource engineering company established in 1955.  

The County hired Wheeler to review the water data from Nestlé and provide an independent assessment of Nestlé’s Ruby Mountain Springs operations.

Thompson’s report states, “The scope of my review on behalf of the County was to consider the hydrology and water rights operations associated with those operations, to confirm if (Nestlé) has complied with conditions related to monitoring and reporting of well pumping, aquifer conditions, spring discharges, and water rights operations, and to identify any potential matters of concern.”

Thompson also concludes that, if the 1041 permit is to be extended, “it would be appropriate to carry forward the Surface Water and Groundwater Monitoring and Mitigation Plan into the new permit.”

Other findings in the Wheeler report include:

  • Operation of Nestlé’s wells “has not caused a reduction of the natural flow of the Arkansas River” because the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District replaces the water Nestlé pumps using transmountain sources released upstream from the springs.
  • Pumping has not adversely affected the Ruby Mountain wetland that Nestlé re-established because “there has been ample flow-through at the wetland discharging to the river at all times.”
  • Operation of Nestlé’s wells has not resulted in injury to other decreed water rights.

Thompson’s report characterizes the Nestlé data as “an excellent long-term set of data to track surface flows at the wetland areas and groundwater level changes in the general area within the Pinedale outwash aquifer.”

Thompson writes that, in his opinion, Nestlé “has been in compliance with the 1041 Permit with respect to monitoring.”

As previously reported, Nestlé’s original 1041 permit required the company to create a fund to reimburse the county for expenses incurred as a result of the permitting process, including the cost of Thompson’s report.

Satellite imagery shows monitoring sites at which Nestlé contractor S.S. Papadopulos and Associates have collected data in compliance with the 1041 permit.