Starbucks' Ethos Water is sourced from one of the areas hit hardest by California's drought

Ethos Water founder Peter Thom.
(Image credit: Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

For every bottle of Ethos water Starbucks sells, 5 cents is donated to the Ethos Water Fund, which supports water, sanitation, and hygiene education programs in developing countries. In a twist, that water comes from an area of California experiencing "exceptional drought."

Starbucks says it has raised $12.3 million through sales of Ethos, which it acquired in 2005. The water comes from private springs in the Northern California town of Baxter, and it is bottled in Merced at a plant owned and operated by the Safeway grocery chain, Mother Jones reports. No one knows how much water is bottled there since the city of Merced considers that classified information (Starbucks uses another water source in Pennsylvania for bottles sold on the East Coast), and while Starbucks told Mother Jones that it "uses a private spring source that is not used for municipal water for any communities," the Merced plant does have to use water in order to manufacture the product — in a report, the International Bottled Water Association found that it takes an average of 1.32 liters of water to make a liter of bottled water.

The water from Baxter is from a private source, but that doesn't mean communities aren't losing out, says Mary Scruggs of the state's Department of Water Resources, since "you capture and pull it out before it ever makes it" downstream. Residents in Merced are starting to speak out against the practice, with one saying during a recent city council meeting, "You might think that in the midst of a drought emergency, diverting public fresh water supplies to bottle and selling them would be frowned upon."

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.