2021-06-02

An in-depth investigation of the We Report network uncovers the dark side of the bottled water business in Europe, where the market is dominated by multinational companies such as Coca-Cola, Nestlé and Danone.

Waterstories.eu is a cross-border multimedia project about the European bottled water industry. It is initiated by We Report, an European network of investigative journalists.

Eight members of the network from four different countries are working on concrete cases in France, Germany and Italy, where most of Europe's bottled water is produced and consumed. The first investigation results yield concrete evidence on cases of conflicts of interest, major environmental damage such as drying out of acquifiers or polluted rivers, tax evasion, greenwashing, and much more.

Danone

The first piece of Waterstories describes the concrete case of Danone in Volvic (France). French bottled water company Danone publically claims to "take only as much resources as mother nature allows us". Research from We Report journalists for Mediapart (France) and DIE ZEIT (Germany) shows that this isn't true, at least when it comes to the case of central French town of Volvic where million of water bottles are produced every day.

According to public data, the multinational company's local consumption has been almost doubling during the last ten years. Nowadays, the enterprise consumes ten times more than the local population. Worse, confidential reports obtained by We Report now show that Danone even has been discretely increasing their withdrawals during the summer periods whilst others such as citizens or farmers had to face heavy restrictions. According to the documents, Danone and the legislators have been aware of the negative impact caused by this excessive consumption, on the local tap water reserve as well as on rivers, for years, without informing the public. Whereas Danone now publicly confirmed most of those facts, the local administration has been announcing a public debate on the equal redistribution on water resources in Volvic.

Nestlé recognises its responsibility and promises progress after 2nd part of Waterstories.eu's investigation

In the Vosges, repeated droughts amplify the battle for water between Nestlé and other consumers of drinking water. Under its ecological varnish, the Swiss multinational is suspected of concealing illegal dumping of plastic, at the risk of polluting the water table which fills its water bottles stamped Vittel, Contrex and Hépar.

After this 2nd part of Waterstories.eu’s investigation into the illegal dumping grounds of Nestlé Waters in Vittel, the mineral water giant is forced to play transparency. In Vosges Matin its management admits their responsibility for nine illegal landfills and announces a draft action plan to remove its waste.

Nestlé's production manager, David Vivier, first admitted that nine landfills are in the territory. Five are open-air landfills for which "the solution would be quick to implement to clean them up". Four are buried sites, in They-sous-Montfort, Saint-Ouen-lès-Parey, Contrexéville and Crainvilliers, on which vegetation has grown back.

© Alberto Campi/We Report

Team members

Robert Schmidt

Robert Schmidt is a journalist based in Strasbourg, France.

Alexander Abdelilah

Alexander Abdelilah is a journalist based in the East of France. 

Daphné Gastaldi

Daphne is a journalist based in France.

Mathieu Martiniere

Mathieu is a journalist based in Lyon, France. 

Mathieu Périsse

Mathieu is a multimedia journalist based in Lyon, France.

Federico Franchini

Federico is journalist based in Lugano, Switzerland.

Alberto Campi

Alberto is a freelance photojournalist based between Geneva, Switzerland and Grenoble, France.

Fabio Lo Verso

Fabio is a journalist based in Geneva, Switzerland.

Mentor

Sylke Gruhnwald

Sylke Gruhnwald is editor-in-chief of the Swiss magazine Republik.

Supported
€9,000 allocated on 22/09/2020
ID
ECB/2020/JA3A/600

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