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California bottlers face protests as state battles drought

27 May 2015

With California residents forced to cut back on water use, outrage is growing against water bottlers who are not required to minimise their use.

Two of the five bottling plants in California saw protests by dozens of activists with online petitions garnering thousands of signatures calling a halt to the company's bottling operations.

In fact a total of 110 water bottling plants operate in the state and, in addition to Nestle, others big bottlers include Pepsi, which bottles Aquafina; Coca-Cola, which bottles Dasani; and Crystal Geyser.

However, the amount of water bottled in California amounts to only a tiny fraction of what is used in the entire state.

"It's a pretty small amount," said Tim Moran, a spokesman for the state's Water Resources Control Board, CNN Money reported. How much water is actually bottled is not tracked by the state.

According to the International Bottled Water Association, about 3.1 billion gallons of water are bottled in California annually. Nestle, for  example, uses 725 million gallons of water annually at its California bottling plants.

That volume is hardly significant against the 4 trillion gallons used by residents every year.

Meanwhile, in a neighborhood watch programme, Californians have started keeping tabs on water-wasting neighbours through social media.

While celebrities have come under attack for their lush lawns, suburban homes and local businesses have been hit by backlash. Using #droughtshaming, people have started taking pictures of freshly watered lawns, decorative fountains and other water-wasting activities.

On the San Jose State University campus, sprinklers were still in operation as the state-issued water restrictions were announced.

Over 46 per cent of the Golden State is reeling under exceptional drought, the highest classification according to the California Drought Monitor.

Only a year ago, 24 per cent of the state was under such drastic conditions.

Lack of rains and minimal snowpack had left California with limited resources.

In a bid to conserve water governor Jerry Brown issued historic water restrictions in April, calling for  a 25-per cent cut in water use statewide.

In May, California's state water board approved emergency drought regulations aimed at cutting water use in urban areas by 25 per cent, with cities and water agencies being required to cut water usage from 8 per cent to 36 per cent (See: California adopts tough water rules to fight drought). 

Meanwhile, Californians could take heart from a dramatic end to drought in Texas and Oklahoma.

Heavy rains lashed the states this week, replenishing reservoirs, dampening parched soil and unleashing floodwaters on vulnerable residents.

Rivers rose over their banks by a downpour this weekend in central Texas, where hundreds of rural homes between Austin and San Antonio were flooded.

At least 2,000 people had to turn to emergency shelters, as helicopters rescued residents from rooftops.

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