Nestlé Waters North America pumped 71.9 acre-feet of water from the Pinedale Aquifer near Nathrop from October 2019 to November 2020.

Larry Lawrence, Nestlé’s Western Region Natural Resource Manager, provided the information while presenting the company’s 2020 annual report for local operations during Tuesday’s Chaffee County Commissioners meeting.

Lawrence said Nestlé pumped an average of 0.2 acre-feet (65,170 gallons) of water per day during the 2020 water year. The current 1041 permit, which has been extended for more than a year, allows the company to pump up to 196 acre-feet of water per year.

Equipment in a Nestlé well house at Ruby Mountain Springs includes a state-mandated gauge (upper left) to measure the amount of water pumped from the aquifer (photo by Joe Stone).

To replace the water pumped from the aquifer, Nestlé paid the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District $152,174 for 85.4 acre-feet of augmentation water, all of which was released from Twin Lakes Reservoir.

Lawrence said the extra augmentation water represents a 15-percent net gain for the river after accounting for 1.7 acre-feet of transit losses – a combination of evaporation and other factors.

A flume installed by Nestlé allows accurate measurement of outflows at Ruby Mountain Springs (photo by Joe Stone).

He reported that the pandemic exacerbated existing difficulties in meeting the permit requirement of hiring 50 percent local truck drivers.

The 2020 report shows local drivers made 39 percent of the trips hauling Chaffee County water to Denver for bottling.

Lawrence said the company’s driver recruitment efforts gleaned 15 applications, resulting in 2 local drivers being hired. The other 13 applicants were “unqualified or unresponsive.”

Chaffee County drivers, he said, were paid $493,296 in 2020, an average of $75,000 per driver. Additional local expenditures by Nestlé in 2020 included:

  • $20,000 for taxes.
  • $51,900 for utilities.
  • $83,300 for contractors and supplies.
  • $62,900 for charitable giving.

As listed in the annual report, Nestlé’s charitable donations went to the following organizations:

  • Chaffee County Community Foundation (Chaffee County COVID-19 Relief Fund) – $15,000.
  • Chaffee County Community Foundation (Chaffee County Waste Audit Study) – $10,000.
  • Boys and Girls Clubs of Chaffee County – $16,000.
  • Arkansas River Water Basin Forum – $5,000.
  • Chaffee County Economic Development Corp. – $5,000.
  • Quilts of Valor Foundation – $4,500.
  • Friends of Browns Canyon – $2,000.
  • Denver Foundation – $2,000.
  • Buena Vista Heritage – $1,900.
  • GARNA – $1,000.
  • Salida Community Center – $500.

Lawrence reported that the educational endowment funds earned $37,897 and $36,479 for the Buena Vista and Salida school districts, respectively. The 2020 ending fund balances were $309,734 for Buena Vista and $308,503 for Salida.

Lawrence reported progress on getting Nestlé’s property into a conservation easement held by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, which completed a required comprehensive environmental baseline study. Finalization of the easement still requires approval by CPW and the Capital Development Committee of the Colorado General Assembly.

Lawrence also reported that, due to pandemic policies, Colorado Mountain College stopped providing students to perform ongoing environmental monitoring but that the data was collected by other personnel.

During public comments, Tom Bomer of Salida, cofounder of Unbottle and Protect Chaffee County Water, said the lack of monitoring by CMC students constitutes a violation of the existing 1041 permit along with the shortfall in hiring local truck drivers.

The annual report is a requirement of the original 1041 permit, and the 480-page report for 2020 is available here. Video of the Commissioners meeting is available through the Chaffee County Clerk’s website. The Nestlé presentation begins 3 hours and 43 minutes into the video.

The next installment in the ongoing Nestlé 1041 public hearing is scheduled for March 16, but the Commissioners have said no decision about the 1041 permit extension will be made until after the county receives and reviews an economic impact analysis of Nestlé’s local operations.