Flagstaff (AZ) mayor says no to Nestle water-bottling deal

The city of Flagstaff will not be selling millions of gallons of spring water from the San Francisco Peaks to a bottled-water subsidiary of the Nestle Co.

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Mayor Sara Presler stated Tuesday that the proposal by Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water to annually pump 55 million gallons of potable water has been rejected by the city.

She said the proposal wasn’t a good fit for the community for a number of reasons, including long-term water sustainability and the use of plastic bottles.

“It is important that we have a clear and adequate water supply,” she said. “We need water for our citizens and that’s our priority.”

And while a new bottling plant might create new jobs, the mayor said that wasn’t enough to justify bottling millions of gallons of fresh water every year.

“I don’t anticipate the 50 jobs would outweigh the needs of the community,” Presler said.

The drawdown from the Peaks would not be significant compared to total city water consumption. City water customers use 55 million gallons of potable water — drawn mainly from Lake Mary and the Woody Mountain wellfields — every five to six days.

City Manager Kevin Burke could not be reached for comment on the sale of the Inner Basin water to Arrowhead, but said in the past that he was skeptical the deal would go through.

A natural resources manager with Arrowhead, Larry Lawrence, could not be reached for comment.

The company has been interested in the site since 1999. An initial study of the basin was performed jointly by the city and Arrowhead several years ago to determine if there was a connection between the city’s Inner Basin wells and nearby flowing springs that Arrowhead might tap for bottled water.

It is unclear whether Arrowhead is also exploring building a water bottling plant near Bellemont as part of an industrial park at Camp Navajo and tapping a different source of water. Lawrence declined to comment on Bellemont in previous interviews.

A developer at Camp Navajo announced last month that an unnamed Fortune 500 company was interested in seeking to bottle and distribute water at the proposed business park. Nestle is a Fortune 500 company.

Presler said the decision was simple to make, noting the city is currently working on a number of projects that will assure that the city has long-term sustainable water supply.

“This kind of business is dead on arrival,” Presler said. “It doesn’t pass the common sense test.”