Hood River County, Ore. – Residents of this picturesque Columbia River Gorge county this week submitted three times as many signatures as they need to qualify for the ballot an initiative that would block corporate behemoth, Nestlé, from bottling and selling their precious public water. The precedent-setting local ballot measure would block Nestlé’s proposed water bottling plant in the Gorge and prohibit commercial water bottling in Hood River County.
Local Water Alliance (LWA), the grassroots group spearheading the campaign, collected more than 1,600 signatures in just over a month, making it virtually certain that the county will verify the 497 signatures needed to send the Hood River Water Protection Measure to county voters.
“It has been fantastic to see all the support for this measure from people across the political spectrum,” said Aurora del Val, Campaign Director for Local Water Alliance. “We considered gathering even more signatures, but we think voters want to make their opinions known as soon as possible.”
While locals have long been concerned about Nestlé’s proposal to set up shop in the small city of Cascade Locks and bottle more than 200 million gallons of water each year, they really mobilized over the summer, when Governor Kate Brown declared drought emergencies in dozens of Oregon counties, including Hood River County.
“Our entire economy relies heavily on water,” said del Val who lives in Cascade Locks. “Passing this initiative means standing up and saying that Hood River County isn’t willing to give away the future of our water security. It means showing that we won’t risk our entire future for the small number of jobs Nestlé could create at a highly automated bottling plant. We can do better for our community. We don’t need Nestlé here.”
Hood River business owner Michael Barthmus agrees. “It was an easy petition to get people to sign because most people understand that water is a resource and basic human need, and not a commodity to be exploited. Shipping water outside of our county seems like poor stewardship, especially during a time of shortage and droughts. Our families, farms and the fish in our rivers should be our top priority.”
The initiative in Hood River County is the first of its kind and has captured attention across the county and around the world for its potential to become a model for other communities that want to protect local water from being bottled by multinational corporations that, like Nestlé, have terrible track records around the globe.
"The communities we work with all over the United States are watching what’s happening in Hood River County, Oregon,” said Julia DeGraw, Northwest organizer for Food & Water Watch. “These local residents are an inspiration to everyone fighting to protect their water supplies from becoming commodities for profit-driven corporations like Nestlé. The public energy behind this precedent-setting campaign is truly impressive.”
“Across the globe, communities and consumers are coming together to protect local water resources from being exploited by companies like Nestlé. More than 156,000 people around the world are standing with Hood River County in this fight to protect their water,” explained Nicole Carty, US campaigner for SumOfUs.org. “Should this initiative be successful, the effects could be game changing: This legislation could serve as a national benchmark and a crucial model to any region looking to keep its natural resources out of the reach of Big Bottled Water.
The local election officials in Hood River County will verify the signatures; campaigners expect official confirmation by the end of the week that the measure has qualified for the ballot.
Local Water Alliance is made of up of Hood River County residents working to protect our local water supply from bottled water operations. We are non-partisan and believe people from all political parties can agree that Hood River County's water resources should be used for residential and agricultural uses.
Food & Water Watch champions healthy food and clean water for all. We stand up to corporations that put profits before people, and advocate for a democracy that improves people’s lives and protects our environment.
SumOfUs.org is a global consumer watchdog. We mobilize consumers, investors, and workers to hold corporations accountable for their actions and forge a new, sustainable and just path for our economy.
Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch, 202. 683.4905, [email protected]
Sandra Lupien, Food & Water Watch, 510.681.3171, [email protected]
Nicole Carty, SumOfUs, (404) 323.6425, [email protected]