By Ben Forstenzer
Sep 30, 2015
The ballot initiative aims to block a convoluted water deal handing over water rights to both the state of Oregon and Hood River County to Nestle, resulting in the company selling the county’s water. The ballot initiative could stop the deal in its tracks and sound a warning to Nestle and other water-bottling companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi that local populations are rallying to protect their water rights.
The Nestle plan has been in the works for over 6 years. The deal has been under siege by local activists, including local Native American populations. Indigenous activist Anna Mae Leonard went on hunger strike earlier this year to try to stop the deal.
“It is intrinsically a desecration to sell that water,” Leonard told KOIN.
This pressure as well as creative work by local environmentalists has led to the ballot initiative. Now organizers must get at least 664 signatures on a petition to get the issue before the electorate.
The fight for potable water is going to be a major issue in the coming decades. Nestle has already come under fire for bottling water in the drought-stricken Colorado River basin, including parts of Southern California, which is enforcing water rationing on local populations. And just last year, the Maine Public Utilities Commission allowed the sale of Fryeburg, Maine’s water rights to Nestle despite public outcry. That decision was especially monumental, as two of the regulators who ruled in Nestle’s favor had previously recused themselves from the decision, citing previous deals with Nestle.
As scarcity of water spreads, local populations are becoming more resourceful in their efforts to preserve local water supplies. Committed activists like those in Hood River County are taking after the example of prior organizing efforts, like those in Cochabamba, Bolivia, to keep their water publicly-owned.