Nestlé official says data show sustainability of Chaffee operation

As the Nestlé Waters North America 1041 permit hearing approaches, opponents of extending the permit have questioned the sustainability of the company’s Chaffee County operations, especially with regard to climate change.

In a recent interview, Nestlé Natural Resource Manager Larry Lawrence said the company’s operations are sustainable and do not put the Pinedale Aquifer at risk.

“Of course we believe in climate change,” Lawrence said. “Everything we do is based on sustainability. … We don’t benefit from having an unsustainable spring source.”

He also pointed to conditions and triggers in the original 1041 permit that address sustainability – including hiring licensed professionals to monitor the aquifer, springs and wetlands. “If anything showed a lack of sustainability, we and the county would address that.”

Lawrence said the company is aware of soil drought conditions. “We study these things every year when we file our reports – climate change, weather patterns, humidity.”

Regarding the 2009 Colorado Natural Heritage Program report authored by Delia Malone (link), Lawrence said the report was “revised by her department,” and the department head defended the changes based on new data showing Nestlé’s operations would be sustainable.

“Her concerns of the time were not born out,” Lawrence said. “The data does not show declining water levels at the springs. … We’re not operating in a way that puts the aquifer at risk, … and we’re at the lower end of an aquifer that is flowing well.”

Lawrence said he welcomes conversations about people’s concerns. “We have a huge amount of data that’s available to anyone. … I’d really love to see the updated information looked at.”

The availability of that data, he said, has already benefited Chaffee County by aiding the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District’s development of underground water storage in the Pinedale Aquifer.*

“We’re available to everyone. We invited the opposition on site a month ago, and they did a site visit. … Our goal is to be as transparent as we can. We have nothing to hide. We operate a strong, sustainable business that we’re proud of.”

*Water storage has been identified as a top priority in “Colorado’s Water Plan” to address the state’s projected water supply shortfall.

Additional information about the Nestlé 1041 permit conditions, monitoring data and permit compliance is available here:

Joe Stone