Starbucks selling California water amid drought

May 1, 2015

water bankAmid the worst drought in California history, Starbucks is bottling California sourced spring water to sell in their coffee houses.  [Time]

Ethos Water was founded in 2002 in Southern California with a promise to help battle global water issues. For every unit it sold, it would donate a small amount of money to water charity projects in the developing world.

In 2005, Starbucks purchased Ethos Water. Now, for every $1.95 bottle of Ethos water it sells, Starbucks makes a 5-cent donation to the Ethos Water Fund, part of the Starbucks Foundation. “When our customers choose to buy Ethos Water, they’re improving the lives of people who lack vital resources,” Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said in 2008.

However, Starbucks pulls water from private springs in central California’s Placer County and also operates a factory further south in Merced, where it uses local water sources at its production facility. Merced is currently ranked in the “exceptional drought” category by the US Drought Monitor.

While public officials throughout California are asking residents to conserve water, companies such as Nestles, Safeway and Arrowhead Spring Water draw California ground water to ship to other states.



  1. Jorge Estrada says:

    Starbutts provides, at no cost, over a gallon drinking water for each flush.

    (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  2. Citizen says:

    Seeing that Stuart Resnick, master water bottler (Fiji) and depleter of the Fiji Islands fresh water aquifer has a toe hold in the North County as owner of Justin Winery and Halter Ranch Winery, I think this story is something people ought to take as a word of caution. Our county ordinance about not exporting water will not hold up in a court if challenged because the water district law (by the state) allows the selling of water by a water district, period. Ask the Supes. They will tell you the same thing.

    (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  3. SLO_Johnny says:

    A trivial amount of water is used in bottled water. Agriculture and industry use more than 80% of the water consumed in CA. We must develop new water storage, either reservoirs or ground water injection. We must stop dumping water to keep a couple little fish alive.

    (2) 8 Total Votes - 5 up - 3 down
  4. achillesheal says:

    The logical next step is the companies sell the water to the state of California. Maybe the governor can set aside a few billions for the emergency purchase of the states own resources.

    (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
  5. calcoastdan says:

    For me, the point of the story is the irony of Starbucks selling bottled water produced from a municipal water supply. This from a company that regularly attempts to claim moral high ground on various social or political issues.

    Pretty funny, actually.

    (2) 4 Total Votes - 3 up - 1 down
  6. slojustice says:

    What a stupid story, I will never get this time back.

    (3) 5 Total Votes - 4 up - 1 down
  7. Francesca Bolognini says:

    Interesting how no one has mentioned the “C” word. If you are going to attack water use, perhaps we need to address one of the biggest uses of water, CATTLE. Eating meat is possible the #1 dietary cause of health problems, and yet the food pyramid was “adjusted” by lobbiests to show exactly the opposite and as the result, we are consuming a staggering amount of unnecessary protien and fat and using an unbelievable amount of water to produce this diet. That does not even touch upon the antibiotic abuse that also, by the way, pollutes our water. Huge amounts of water used to raise crops (usually GMO and so highly sprayed with pesticides) are used to feed said cattle. No one wants to even bring up this topic. They SUED Opra, if you will recall. If we just stopped consuming beef, or at least cut back considerably, the benefits would stagger the imagination, reaching from the obvious savings in water, to the return of wildlife displaced by ranching (at least 50% of the wildlife in this country has been replaced by domestic stock) to the obvious health care cost reductions and longer, healthier human lives.

    (-3) 23 Total Votes - 10 up - 13 down
    • racket says:

      Naaaah. Most of that’s been debunked, but it is such a polarizing issue that I don’t expect you to believe it. Read “Defending Beef” by Nicolette Nieman.

      (0) 14 Total Votes - 7 up - 7 down
      • brettmx says:

        Most of what has been debunked?. There is a clear correlation between cancer and cardiovascular disease and eating animal protein; beef, chicken, dairy. The numbers for land usage to grow feed for cows is pretty well calculated. Water usage is also pretty accurate.

        (0) 14 Total Votes - 7 up - 7 down
        • racket says:

          She credibly disputes the health claims by pointing out that humans have evolved eating red meat. It’s the advent of cheap grain (converted to sugar) couple with heightened consciousness concerning animal welfare that has led to meat’s bad rap.

          She discusses, at length, acreage used to produce feed, and what would happen (virtually nothing) if that corn and soy went to produce fuel.

          She discusses the water cycle as well, and how grasslands and ruminants evolved together, and cannot function without one another.

          Read the book.

          (-1) 5 Total Votes - 2 up - 3 down
          • Francesca Bolognini says:

            Humans have eaten meat, but it has NOT made them healthier. In the developing countries where meat has become more available and people have increased their consumption the health problems have escalated apace. We, as a species, may have been forced to consume large quantities of meat during Ice Ages, due to lack of other choices, or face starvation. However, this was not previously the focus of our diet and should not have continued at the rate that it did subsequently. Cultures that consume less meat are much healthier and have longer life spans. Period.

            I did also mention that domesticated stock have displaced the natural native species and therefore the balance of the environment, as they do not function in identical ways to the native species. I have made NO mention of converting soy or corn to fuel. GMO crops, no matter WHAT they are used for are drenched in pesticides and chemical fertilizers that deffinately affect our water supply. Yes, uminants are a part of grassland ecology, but the ones designed to match our environment on the Central Coast are mule deer and elk, whose hooves effect the soil very differently than cattle, their natural diet is native grasses rather than invasive European varieties and grazing patterns would be different as well. Their numbers and environmental impact would be kept in check by top preditors like the cougar. We would also still have beavers in this area, whose natural tendancies would create a meandering effect on streams and creeks that would allow much higher absorbtion into the aquifer before reaching the ocean.

            This is not even begining to touch on the antibiotics that are creating resistant super bugs and how the consumption of GMOs, even second hand through the cattle feed, is affecting our health, or have you not noticed the gianormous increase in food sensitivities and digestive problems these days? I am in health care and I must say that I certainly have. Check out Genetically Modified Food in America, a Documentary on YouTube.

            And YES, animal welfare should count for something. When a sentient creature is giving its very life (and usually under VERY unpleasant circumstances) for your eating entertainment, I think it should count for something.

            Whether one is drinking a beverage such as coffee or wasting a plastic bottle to drink water is probably less important than many of the other choices, or whether we allow fracking, which destroys aquifers FOREVER, but I still maintain that we would be much better off in so many ways if we move away from consuming meat.

            (-2) 4 Total Votes - 1 up - 3 down
            • JMO says:

              How does fracturing oil impregnated rock thousands of feet below the surface and separated by any fresh water aquifer by solid rock (or otherwise the oil would have seeped up to the surface like it does off of Santa Barbara) destroy an aquifer FOREVER? Not that we should allow fracking, but if drilling an oil well through an aquifer thousands of feet down into a pool of oily water (the Monterey formation is 99% water and 1% oil) doesn’t destroy an aquifer, why does fracking destroy it?

              (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
              • Francesca Bolognini says:

                What makes you so sure that these practices you mention are safe? Because an oil co. exec. told you they were?

                (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
        • racket says:

          Final note, and apology for going so far off topic:

          She is a vegetarian, and an enviro attorney tasked with campaigning against meat industry pollution.

          (2) 8 Total Votes - 5 up - 3 down
          • Francesca Bolognini says:

            Well, sounds to me like someone should probably fire her, because she is deffinately NOT doing her job.

            (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
            • racket says:

              Have you read it?

              (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
            • racket says:

              A problem with you and me is that we make up our mind about what is true, and then restrict our “research” to work that will validate the conclusion we have already come to. The ‘Ologists call it Confirmation Bias, and and we aren’t going to grow or get better til we acknowledge it and work with it.

              (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
              • Francesca Bolognini says:

                Speak for yourself and do not make assumptions as to how I come to my opinions. You are far from correct in my case and probably spot on in your own.

                (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
    • Citizen says:

      If you replace grazing land with wine grape irrigation, then you can get rid of wildlife altogether. Do you realize that irrigated crops completely deplete the habitat for wildlife. We are LUCKY to have cattle grazing in this county instead of every acre plowed and planted.

      (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down
  8. JMO says:

    One thing about this drought: the average person not familiar with water resources is going to learn (or have the opportunity to learn) about water use, water balance, options for potable water, etc. I know that articles like this are red herrings (well intended but just not factually accurate or relevant). Why write about bottled water as if it has any relevance to the drought? It doesn’t. Period. You might not like a big corporation like Starbucks or Nestles but they have NO impact on the drought. I would guess that more water evaporates off of swimming pools in California than all the water used for bottled drinking water. And swimming pool evaporation is so minor that it isn’t an issue with this drought.

    Plants use most of the water in California. The sun can dry out, say, the top 6″ of soil but it takes the energy of a plant to pull water out of the ground below that 6″. A typical irrigated acre uses 24″ of water a year (this is VERY general as some crops use much more). One site on the Web says California has 27 million irrigated acres of agriculture. That would mean, at a minimum, agriculture uses over 50 million acre-feet a year. I looked at how much Nestle was using for its bottled water plant near Los Angeles and it was under 400 acre-feet a year. That’s 50,000,000 to 400, or 0.0008%.

    That’s why I call it a red herring.

    Here’s an interesting (although technical) power point presentation on irrigated agriculture and drought.

    (4) 8 Total Votes - 6 up - 2 down
    • JMO says:

      How many 16 oz bottles of water is 400 acre-feet? Over 520 million.

      (3) 3 Total Votes - 3 up - 0 down

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