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Starbucks pulls plug on Ethos water bottling in drought-stricken California

Starbucks Corp on Friday said it would stop sourcing water for its Ethos water brand in California, which is in the fourth year of a serious drought that has prompted the state's first-ever mandatory cuts in water use.

Seattle-based coffee chain will move operation to Pennsylvania

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said the company would move its Ethos water operation out of California after a Mother Jones magazine investigation. (David Ryder/Reuters)

Starbucks Corp on Friday said it would stop sourcing water for its Ethos brand of bottled water in California, which is in the fourth year of a serious drought that has prompted the state's first-ever mandatory cuts in water use.

Beginning in May and over the next six months, Starbucks said it plans to move production to its Pennsylvania supplier.

The Seattle-based coffee chain also is looking for a new source and supplier for its West Coast Ethos water distribution.

The announcement comes a week after the magazine Mother Jones published a report showing that Ethos water was sourced in areas deemed to be in "exceptional drought."

Starbucks bought privately held Ethos Brands LLC for $8 million US in April 2005. It does not break out sales for Ethos.

Starbucks donates 5 cents for every bottle of water sold to the Ethos Water Fund, which is part of the Starbucks foundation. Starbucks says that so far, more than $12.3 million has been granted to help support water, sanitation and hygiene education programs in water-stressed countries in Africa, Indonesia and Latin America.

Starbucks says its California cafes have cut their water use by 26 per cent since 2008.

Several other large bottled water sellers source water from California, among which are Coca-Cola Co's Dasani brand and PepsiCo Inc's Aquafina.

U.S. bottled water consumption up

Coca-Cola's California facilities no longer use water for things like truck washing and landscaping, spokeswoman Nancy Limon said in an email.

But Coca-Cola is not moving bottled water operations out of the state.

"We are committed to keeping jobs in California, while reducing our water use and replenishing water back to nature," Limon said, adding that Coca-Cola is involved in several water stewardship projects around the state.

Representatives from PepsiCo did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The total volume of bottled water consumed in the United States hit 40 billion litres last year, up more than seven per cent from 2013. That translated into an average of about 129 litres per person, according to the International Bottled Water Association, citing data from the Beverage Marketing Corp.

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