The State Water Resources Control Board voted Tuesday to issue a cease-and-desist order to BlueTriton, the company that produces Arrowhead bottled water. The adopted order instructs BlueTriton to stop taking water from a number of springs in the San Bernardino Mountains. The order does not ban the company from taking any water, but it reduces how much water the company can take.
Arrowhead bottled water traces its roots to the Arrowhead Springs Hotel, which first opened in the hills above San Bernardino in 1885 and began selling bottled spring water from its basement in 1906.
Tuesday’s vote comes after years of fighting between the bottling company and residents who want to protect the watershed and see it restored to its natural state. Environmental and community groups say the company’s actions have dried up Strawberry Creek, making the area more susceptible to wildfires.
BlueTriton issued a statement before the hearing saying they would comply with any final determination from the board, but noted the company would “continue to preserve its legal rights through available administrative review channels.”
“We have never taken more water than we believe we are legally entitled to, nor will we in the future,” the statement said.
Attorneys for BlueTriton argued during the hearing that the board does not have the authority to tell it what to do. They also pointed to a 1931 court case that they said proves the company has the right to take the water from the springs.
The water board ultimately disagreed, saying the company could not get around the board by taking the water before it bubbles to the surface and the case in question was a settlement between parties and did not determine BlueTriton’s rights to the water.
BlueTriton has drawn water from the San Bernardino National Forest for more than a century.