I was dismayed to see the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruling siding with Fryeburg Water Co. and Nestlé Waters NA/Poland Spring against Food and Water Watch and a Fryeburg citizen, in which the court upheld the contract allowing Nestlé access to hundreds of thousands of gallons of water per day from Fryeburg’s groundwater.

Aside from concerns about conflict of interest with the Maine Public Utilities Commission and the appointment of retired judges by Gov. LePage to replace recused PUC members before the contract was upheld, the precedent of allowing an international corporation to extract Maine’s water at the same rates as local citizens, for profit, is incredibly disturbing as we begin to see the dire effects of limited water in states like California.

Thankfully, Maine is in a better position than California in terms of current water resources. But should our being a low-income state eager for jobs affect our willingness to sell our rights to the most precious resource there is for sustaining human life and agriculture, in an era where rapid changes in climate are increasingly recognized as the new normal?

Those inclined to trust the motives of large corporations – who might think, “How bad can Nestlé be? They make chocolate bars” and “I like Poland Spring water” – should research Nestlé’s water-bottling operations in drought-plagued California, and how it has taken on the U.S. Forest Service for placing any limits on its right to extract water in California under old permits dating to 1929 through a pipeline in San Bernardino.

The assurance in the agreement with Fryeburg Water Co. that it can limit Poland Spring’s withdrawals in cases of water shortages or emergencies should ring hollow in the face of the bold offense Nestlé is willing to play to maintain rights to extract water in California.

Priscilla Velentgas

Cape Elizabeth