McCloud, a town of 1,300 people in far Northern California, struck a deal with Nestle in 2003 allowing the Swiss company to build the nation's largest water bottling plant to tap three of the many springs along the icy flanks of Mount Shasta and bottle up to 521 million gallons of water a year. But the project still awaits an environmental review and could be several years away from approval.

As an Associated Press story on Page M3 explains, similar disputes are playing out elsewhere around the country as water becomes an increasingly precious commodity — and a major source of legal and political controversy — because of drought, booming population and the popularity of bottled water.

The project in McCloud has run into opposition from scientists, fishermen, conservationists and some members of the community.

But others in town are growing frustrated and want to see something, anything, to replace the lumber mill that was driven out of business five years ago.

"When they had the mill, this town was jumping," said homeowner Paula Kleinhans. "As soon as the mill closed down, people moved, they lost their jobs, and now there are no children here. It really needs industry here."