advertisement
advertisement

Walmart Is Bottling Water From The Middle Of California’s Drought

Buying a city’s water supply for dirt cheap and reselling it for not-dirt cheap is already egregious, even in better, wetter times.

Walmart Is Bottling Water From The Middle Of California’s Drought
[Photos: Yeko Photo Studio via Shutterstock]

As California’s drought deepens, residents are starting to feel its consequences–even those in cities that have been largely shielded from meaningful restrictions. In San Francisco’s East Bay area, residents will be forced to deal with sour tap water for months, due to lack of availability in the normal reservoir.

advertisement
advertisement

In the middle of all this, Walmart is bottling and selling water that comes from Sacramento’s municipal water supply (more specifically, the water is purchased from a company called DS Services of America, which gets its water from the municipal water supply). The news comes from CBS Sacramento, which found that the city sells its water to DS Services for 99 cents per 748 gallons, and then Walmart turns around and sells that water in its stores for 88 cents per gallon.

According to Walmart, these numbers don’t include water purification, labor, packaging, transportation, taxes and other costs from the bottler. Walmart purchases about 10% of DS Services’ water supply. The rest of the water goes to other grocers and businesses.

“The drought in California is very concerning for many of our customers and our associates,” writes Walmart spokesperson John Forrest Ales, in an email. “We share those concerns and are tracking it closely. Our commitment to sustainability includes efforts to minimize water use in our facilities. We have and continue to work with our suppliers to act responsibly while meeting the needs of customers who count on us across California.”

There are plenty of egregious water users, but nothing seems to get California residents more riled up than companies bottling local water and selling it, while locals are struggling (or at least thinking about struggling) to conserve. When Mother Jones found out that Starbucks was bottling its Ethos brand of water from groundwater in one of the hardest-hit California counties, the coffee chain pulled out and moved its operations to Pennsylvania, where it was already bottling water for the East Coast.


Other companies, including Nestle and PepsiCo, are still taking water from California’s supply for their bottled water brands, which include Poland Spring, Aquafina, and Deer Park.

Since there isn’t a state agency responsible for tracking all water used by bottled water plants in California, no one knows how much these companies are responsible for sucking the state dry. According to the USGS, 1% of all state water is used in industry, with bottled water making some portion of that sliver. Whatever the exact numbers, it’s not nearly as much as agriculture, which uses 80% of the state’s water.

advertisement

This post was updated to include a quote from Walmart and details on DS Services of America’s involvement in procuring Sacramento’s water.

advertisement
advertisement

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.

More