Fisher Hearing Cites “Food and Water Watch”, a Resource for Community Groundwater Protection

George Dilts, attorney for Mr. Fisher in his variance application, objected to introducing the contents of the Food and Water Watch website into the record of the Board of Adjustment hearings. The Board’s attorney Steve Goodell upheld this objection, on the grounds that the website was not a peer-reviewed publication. Mr.Dilts also complained that the present writer, a member of the Board of Adjustment, had done independent research, as evidenced by articles here in The Post, and thus should recuse himself from the Fisher hearings. On Mr. Goodell’s advice, our writer did recuse himself, freeing him to do more independent research and publish it here.

Mr. Goodell has already instructed the Board of Adjustment members not to do their own research, to read news articles, to talk to the press about the case or to discuss it among themselves, so The Post feels confident that this article will not influence the Board members.

In this article, we quote extensively from an article on the Food and Water Watch website “All Bottled Up: Nestlé’s Pursuit of Community Water”. Information from the Food and Water Watch was excluded from the record of the Fisher case because it did not meet the standard of peer-reviewed literature. We leave it up to our readers to decide what merit it may nevertheless have.

Mr. Bogan included in his report a reference to the Food and Water watch website, and the report published there entitled “All Bottled Up: Nestlé’s Pursuit of Community Water”, to make two points about the Fisher operation. First, the bottled water industry has a huge environmental impact, considering the energy used to extract, transport, bottle and refrigerate billions of individual portions of water annually. Second, that there may be no law that would give a small local government – Delaware Township, for example – the authority to regulate a large multinational corporation extracting water within its boundaries. The corporation would be at liberty to extract as much water as it wants, once it gets its foot in the door. These two points probably have been established in peer reviewed literature, and we invite our readers to send us references, to inform our research for a future article.

About Food and Water Watch

Food and Water Watch has its main office on P Street in Washington, D.C. The article “All Bottled Up: Nestle’s Pursuit of Community Water”, Copyright © January 2008 by Food and Water Watch, all rights reserved, can be viewed or downloaded at

From the website:

“At Food and Water Watch we believe that the public should be able to count on our government to oversee and protect the quality and safety of food and water. We deserve to know that food and water are free of unhealthy chemicals, bacteria and added hormones. We have the right to know where our food comes from with accurate labeling, and we have the right to clean, affordable, publicly owned water. Food and Water Watch is dedicated to working on behalf of the public to assert and regain these rights as we lobby for effective government standards and oversight, organize the public to take action, and educate the public and media on these basic issues”.

The Chairman of the Board of Food and Water Watch is Maude Barlow. She is also an executive member of the San Francisco–based International Forum on Globalization and a Councilor with the Hamburg-based World Future Council. Ms. Barlow is the recipient of eight honorary doctorates as well as many awards, including the 2005 Right Livelihood Award (known as the “Alternative Nobel”), the Citation of Lifetime Achievement at the 2008 Canadian Environment Awards, and the 2009 Earth Day Canada Outstanding Environmental Achievement Award. In 2008/2009, she served as Senior Adviser on Water to the 63rd President of the United Nations General Assembly. She is also the best selling author or co-author of 16 books, including the international best seller Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and The Coming Battle for the Right to Water.

Wenonah Hauter is the executive director of Food & Water Watch. She has worked extensively on energy, food, water and environmental issues at the national, state and local level. Experienced in developing policy positions and legislative strategies, she is also a skilled and accomplished organizer, having lobbied and developed grassroots field strategy and action plans. From 1997 to 2005 she served as Director of Public Citizen’s Energy and Environment Program, which focused on water, food, and energy policy. From 1996 to 1997, she was environmental policy director for Citizen Action, where she worked with the organization’s 30 state–based groups. From 1989 to 1995 she was at the Union of Concerned Scientists where as a senior organizer, she coordinated broad–based, grassroots sustainable energy campaigns in several states. She has an M.S. in Applied Anthropology from the University of Maryland.

The report “All Bottled Up: Nestle’s Pursuit of Community Water” is made to be easily read by busy people. It begins with an Executive Summary, key findings and facts about Nestle’s bottled water business, historical background, and case studies covering California, Florida, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine and Wisconsin. Nestlé, a transnational corporation based in Switzerland, is the parent company of Nestlé Waters North America.

FWW’s brief against the bottled water industry is not limited to Nestlé, but this report focuses on the Swiss corporation because it is the world’s largest seller of bottled water, with $9.3 billion in worldwide sales (in 2007 dollars), a 19.2 percent share in the market, 33,500 employees, 100 factories in 38 producing countries, and a 30 to 32 percent market share in the U.S. bottled water market, with $4.3 billion in North American sales and bottling facilities in 15 states.

FWW’s complaint against Nestlé is partly based on the company’s bad citizenship: “Nestlé takes water from U.S. communities for cheap, bottles and sells it for billions of dollars in profit, and then dumps the environmental and other costs on society”. The environmental costs include the billions of plastic bottles that end up in municipal dumps and the dreadful Pacific Gyre ; the altered levels and flows of springs, lakes, rivers and drinking water wells when water is extracted commercially; and the airborne toxic ash and gases when bottles are disposed of by burning.

FWW’s campaign against bottled water has two main fronts: to inform individuals about the “Bad New About Bottled Water”, and to alert communities that depend on groundwater to protect the relatively few rights they have in a global commodity market.

The Bad News About Bottled Water

[From “All Bottled Up”. Footnotes are numbered as in the article].

“Bottled water costs 240 to 10,000 times as much as tap water [197, 198] that’s just as pure and healthful, if not more so. Buying the equivalent of one gallon of bottled water in single-serve containers costs more than a gallon of gas [199]. In fact, more than 40 percent of bottled water comes from the tap. [200].

“Bottling water is inefficient. Producing a one-liter bottle of water can require three liters of water [206]. Annual U.S. plastic bottle production requires more than 17 million barrels of oil, enough to fuel one million vehicles on our roads each year [206]. But it’s not just the production of bottles that has an ecological impact. The energy used to pump, process, ship and refrigerate bottled water amounts to 50 million barrels of oil, enough to run 3 million cars [207].

“Unfortunately, the bad news doesn’t stop after the last drop is drained from the bottle. About 86 percent of the empty plastic water bottles in the United States land in the garbage instead of being recycled [208, 209] amounting to about two million tons of PET plastic bottles in U.S. landfills each year. [210] Single-serving water bottles and other beverage containers, often used on the go, are recycled at a lower rate than containers used at home. These bottles likely will be incinerated, which releases toxic ash and gases into the air. [211]

“What are the larger implications of using all that energy? For one, bottled water produced more than 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2006, according to calculations by the Pacific Institute. [212] This contributes to the ongoing crisis of global climate change.

“But that’s not the end of the story. The climate change caused by bottled water production and distribution in turn can affect the replenishment of groundwater in communities across the country. In 2005, the journal Nature published a study showing how climate change could diminish water sources dependent on melting snow. With warmer periods, earlier snowmelt could mean ‘much of the winter runoff will immediately be lost to oceans’ rather than to recharge groundwater resources. [213]”

The Nature article refers to Himalayan villages, far from Delaware Township, but the same principle of early snowmelt reducing groundwater applies here as well. Seen from the water level, Cold Run is just a step away from the Atlantic Ocean: once its waters run over the D&R Canal bank into the Delaware River three miles downstream from the Fisher Farm, they might become part of Philadelphia’s drinking supply, but we will never get the chance to use them here, without paying for them.

Possible Global Trade Implications of Groundwater Extraction

Besides Nestlé, a number of other multinational corporations are in the bottled water business, including Perrier, Poland Springs, Evian and many others. FWW points out that these operate in something of a global free trade zone: “Sensible government oversight of the bottled water industry is clearly needed and long overdue, but when international food companies like Nestlé are buying natural resources and distributing bottled water, international trade and investment rules may trump local, state or national regulatory efforts. Some trade agreements may limit the ability of governments (especially state or local governments) to enact regulations over the water bottling industry, to impose regulatory burdens (like Maine’s proposed tax on water extraction) on water bottling companies, or to set limits on the sale or commercial trade in bulk water resources. To date, the World Trade Organization rules on services trade (known as the General Agreement on Trade in Services, or GATS) do not cover the distribution of drinking water, although some international water companies have pressed to include water services in the current round of WTO negotiations. The GATS agreement already has a broad scope that favors commercial investors; the addition of water, water distribution and other water-related services to future GATS negotiations would potentially significantly undermine local, state and federal government abilities to protect water and water systems as public goods”.

Community Resistance to Groundwater Extraction Closer to Home: The Pike Oley District Preservation Coalition Fights Wissahickon Spring Water Company, and Wins

In addition to Nestle, Perrier, et al, closer to home the Wissahickon Spring Water Company is involved in the bottled water industry. The Pike Oley District Preservation Coalition was created to protect local water when Wissahickon started prospecting in their area. Local place names are so rich in associations it would be a waste to mention just one: Pike Oley is near Reading, Hopewell Furnace, the Daniel Boone Homestead, Kenilworth, Amityville and the Schuylkill and Conestoga Rivers. Their website tells their story. “The Pike Oley District Preservation Coalition traces its origins to a local environmental threat: the proposal of the Wissahickon Spring Water Company of Philadelphia to extract water on leased land in Pike Township, at the site of an old trout hatchery where a pristine, fresh-water spring flows into Pine Creek, an Exceptional Value stream.”

Here in Delaware Township, The Wickecheoke Creek, of which Cold Run is a branch, have been granted similar recognition, as a Category 1 stream / special resource protection waterway. The Wickecheoke is a New Jersey trout maintenance stream. A healthy trout habitat relies on cold water.

“The water company obtained permits from Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection and the Delaware River Basin Commission to extract 280,000 gallons of water a day. The next step was application for a zoning amendment in Pike Township, which would allow the use of the property for the development of a commercial well, pumping and storage facilities for round the clock shipment to the bottling plant in Kutztown”.

The Fisher operation is on a smaller scale, 43,000 gallons per day; but the site plans include 96,000 gallons of tank capacity, inexplicably. If the variance were granted to Mr. Fisher, it might be impossible to prevent an increase in the amount of water extracted. Truck traffic will increase in direct proportion to the increase in amount of water extracted. Otherwise, the process of applying for a variance is similar here and in Pike Oley.

“On May 23, 1995, a public hearing of the Wissahickon Spring Water Company before the Pike Township Board of Supervisors attracted a huge crowd of concerned citizens. Shortly thereafter, an activist alliance of conservation-minded citizens was mobilized. Pike and Oley Townships, the Pine Creek Watershed Association and the Oley Youth League joined forces. To kindle grassroots efforts and help raise funds, the Pike Oley District Preservation Coalition, POD/PC, was formed”.

At the hearings for the Fisher variance application, Charlie Fisher is the face of the operation. Mr. Fisher testified in 2008 that no buyer has told him yet they will take his water, although he also testified that “they told me to come talk to them when I got my permits”. Could it be that the regional water bottling industry learned from Wissahickon’s blunder in Pike – Oley, and decided to let a tenth-generation local with deep roots in the community be their spokesman?

“After successful fund- and consciousness-raising, scientific studies, and legal preparations, our conservation coalition was ready to challenge the permits. The result was precedent-setting decision by the Environmental Hearing Board, remanding the DEP Permit, and requiring a broader, more stringent review process”.

“In October 1998, Wissahickon quietly discontinued its trout hatchery lease. But would they or another bottling company try again? Clearly, more work was needed.

The process has worked differently in Delaware Township. Instead of a water company leasing a parcel and seeking a variance, we have a private landowner seeking a variance. Once the variance is granted, it will run with the land in perpetuity, and will pass to subsequent owners of the land after Mr. Fisher has ceased to have an interest in the farm on Cold Run.

The PA DEP is a distinct entity from the NJ DEP. Recent experience with the NJ DEP has shown they have over-allocated waters in the Lockatong Watershed. As one example of the downsides of over-allocation, neighbors of the Garden State Growers greenhouses in Franklin Township found their wells ran dry; after unsuccessfully suing GSG, they had no recourse but to dig deeper wells at their own expense.

“In November 1998 the owners of the trout hatchery signed an agreement with Oley Township, Pine Creek Watershed Association, Berks County Conservancy and POD/PC to sell a conservation easement which would preserve the property in its natural state, provide restricted public access and prohibit the extraction of water for commercial purposes. Again the local partners, aided by a Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources matching grant, successfully raised the necessary funds to purchase a conservation easement that will permanently protect the land and water resources of the hatchery site”.

In the Fisher case, the owner of the land also hopes to benefit from the sale of the waters that pass through it, so he is more motivated to pursue the variance as far as he can go. He has, however, already testified that he is willing to sell the development rights to four approved building lots. But the issue of these building lots is hopelessly confused at the moment: Mr. Fisher does not own them, they are separate tax lots from the parcel where his water extraction and trucking operation would be built, and he does not have a preservation agreement. The owner in Pike Oley agreed to preserve his land instead of selling its water; Mr. Fisher has promised to preserve his land if gets the variance to sell his water. Otherwise, as his planner Frank Banisch made clear by his testimony, he remains free to proceed with building on the four approved lots.

“Today, POD/PC continues with its conservation and environment protection mandates. We are working with the Environmental Advisory Councils of Pike and District Township. We support and are actively involved in grant-funded projects to protect and preserve our watersheds. We invite your participation.”

“Please go to the membership and activities pages for more information. Thank You.”

The Standards for Evidence

Although they operate in different spheres – Food and Water Watch is global and the Pike Oley District Preservation Coalition is local – they share the same concerns, and they shed an important light on the proposal to bottle water from Delaware Township. Mr. Dilts’ motion to exclude the FWW report is motivated by his work on behalf of his client. Mr. Goodell’s reasons for setting peer review as the criterion for allowing the report into the record are not as clear; although, with neither a good explanation from Mr. Bogan nor a familiarity with FWW, he may have just been exercising due caution. The industry of groundwater bottling and sale on a global scale is relatively new, and there are no recognized experts in Hunterdon County. Deciding on appropriate sources to inform the Board, particularly when procedural errors can jeopardize the finality of the Board’s decision, is a delicate maneuver.

In these circumstances, perhaps a word from Ralph Waldo Emerson would apply. In his Essay History, Emerson states his belief in an individual’s power to see the truth, independently of clerical or governmental interpretation. “The measure of inspiration is the depth of the thought, and never, who said it?” “Every reform was once a private opinion, and when it shall be a private opinion again it will solve the problem of the age”.


197 “Bottled Water: Pure Drink or Pure Hype?” Natural Resources Defense Council, March 1999. Available at:

198 Franklin, Pat. ”Down the drain: Plastic water bottles should no longer be a wasted resource.’ Waste Management World, May – June 2006. Available at:”

199 Food and Water Watch calculations: one gallon = 128 ounces. A 20-oune bottle of water coasts about $1.50. The cost of 128 ounces or one gallone comes out to $9.60, about three times as much as gasoline that runs at about $3 per gallon.

200 “Bottled Water: Pure Drink or Pure Hype?” Natural Resources Defense Council, March, 1999.

206 Larsen, Janet. “Bottle water boycotts: Back-to-the-tap movement gins momentum.” Earth Policy Institute, Dec. 7, 2007. Available at:

207 ibid

208 Arnold, Emily and Larsen, Janet. “Bottled water: Pouring Resources down the drain”. Earth Policy Institute, Feb. 2, 2006. Available at:

209 “Bottled Water: FAQ. NRDC.” Available at http”//

210 “Bottled water pricey in more ways than one.” Worldwatch Institute, May 2007. Available at:

211 Arnold, Emily and Larsen, Janet. “Bottled water: Pouring Resources down the drain”. Earth Policy Institute, Feb. 2, 2006. Available at:

212 “Bottled water and energy: A fact sheet.” Pacific Institute. Accessed on Nov. 6, 2008. Available at:

213 Barnett, T.P., Adam, J.C., Lettenmaier, D.P. “Potential impacts of a warming climate on water availability in snow-dominated regions.” Nature. Vol. 438, 303-309.November 17, 2005.