The U.S. Forest Service says it's examining an expired permit from water bottling giant Nestlé that has allowed the company to pump water out of a national forest for years.
Officials took the action after an investigation by the Desert Sun, which found the permit expired in 1988.
"Actually, there are a number of permits that are expired," said Desert Sun reporter Ian James. "The Forest Service says it's now making it a priority to look into these permits, especially now that it's a drought."
The issue has sparked an online petition calling on Nestlé to stop bottling operations in California during the drought.
The petition from the Courage Campaign says: "While California is facing record drought conditions, it is unconscionable that Nestlé would continue to bottle the state's precious water, export it, and sell it for profit."
But Nestlé says stopping bottling is not the way to go.
"It's a misnomer to think that it would drop the water use," said Larry Lawrence, the Natural Resource Manager for Nestlé Waters North America. "In fact we'd probably see more water use in the state simply because people would go to more intensive beverages, like soda or tea."
Lawrence said Nestlé is monitoring the flow rate downstream of the operations in Strawberry and Deer Canyons and that last year the company drew about 28 million gallons from the area.
A review of the expired permit will include an environmental analysis of the operation, according to the Forest Service.