Drought: Starbucks to Stop Bottling Water in California

Ethos (Paul Swansen / Flickr / CC)
Paul Swansen / Flickr / CC

In an official statement, Starbucks has announced that it will stop bottling water in drought-stricken California and will move production–and jobs–to Pennsylvania to produce the Ethos brand of water that it sells in thousands of coffee shops.

The move comes as other companies face increasing public pressure to cease bottling water in the state in the midst of the worst drought California has experienced in decades. Ethos uses water from a private spring in Baxter, CA in the Sierra Nevada foothills, and is bottled by Safeway-Lucerne Foods in Merced, according to USA Today. Regardless of Starbucks’s decision, that spring will remain in private hands and there is no sign the bottling plant intends to cease operations.

In an official statement, Starbucks said:

Due to the serious drought conditions and necessary water conservation efforts in California, Starbucks is moving the sourcing and manufacturing of Ethos Water out of state.

Beginning the first week of May and over the next six months, Starbucks plans to move production to its Pennsylvania supplier, while simultaneously exploring alternatives to transition to a new source and supplier to serve the company’s West Coast distribution.

Theoretically, the shortage of water could simply have driven up the cost of Ethos. The problem for Starbucks is less one of cost, however, or even conservation–and more a problem of image.

Ethos is marketed as an ethical alternative to bottled water, which environmentalists often decry for its use of plastic and its exploitation of scarce water supplies from public aquifers or even municipal water systems.

Starbucks currently spends 5 cents of each Ethos bottle on projects “to help support water, sanitation and hygiene education programs in water-stressed countries”–especially coffee-growing nations.

Drinking water is a small percentage of Californians’ water use, and has held steady despite urban population growth.


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