Today is World Water Day, and this year, the focus is on exploring nature-based solutions to 21st century water challenges. Droughts, floods, and water pollution are all exacerbated by environmental degradation. However, solutions can also be found in nature.
At Coca-Cola, every day is World Water Day. Water is fundamental to our business – we use water in our agricultural supply chain, in manufacturing our products, and water is the main ingredient in all our beverages. Even though today is World Water Day, we don’t need a ‘day’ to realize how scarce this resource is. Our taps are running dry. Our aquifers and groundwater is running out. Famine is a reality and drought is creating national disasters. The severity of the problem is beyond our collective comprehension.
We have a special interest in protecting local water sources that sustain the communities that host our bottling plants because they are also our consumer base— we sell our products where we make them. If those communities stay strong, our business will stay strong. So, in addition to the ecological and ethical imperatives that drive our water stewardship efforts, we also have a vested business interest in helping preserve and improve local water sources.
Our water stewardship program is focused on respecting water as a shared resource. To do that, our water goals are aggressive and centered around efficiency (less water use per liter of product produced), risk management, wastewater treatment and reuse, and replenishing the water we use back to communities and nature by 2020. In 2015, we achieved that goal five years ahead of target, becoming the first Fortune 500 Company to replenish the same amount of water we use and we continue to maintain it today. With agriculture accounting for 70% of worldwide water withdrawals, we have also committed to sustainably sourcing key agricultural ingredients for our products.
However, we know we must continue to do more and do things differently. So we’re bringing people that wouldn’t normally come together. Through partnerships, we’re investing in our ecosystems and communities to find nature-based solutions reconnecting rivers to floodplains, restoring wetlands and returning billions of litres of water to communities and nature.
South Africa is battling its worst drought in over a century. So The Coca-Cola Foundation (TCCF) set to work on building long-term water security by investing in natural solutions through the Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN). In Cape Town, TCCF has partnered with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to launch the Greater Cape Town Water Fund, which will protect Cape Town’s largest aquifer by removing alien plant species that absorb a lot of water. Ultimately, this project will improve water security across the Cape Town water supply system and benefit more than 61,000 residents of the Atlantis area. In addition, as drought conditions continue to worsen in the Eastern Cape, RAIN is also investing in long-term water security for residents of Port Elizabeth. This partnership with Living Lands and Grounded is restoring the Baviaanskloof catchment area to improve drought resiliency in the region.
The Greater Cape Town Water Fund is building on RAIN’s longstanding partnership with TNC in Kenya, where in 2014, The Coca-Cola Foundation was an early investor in the Nairobi Water Fund, the first-ever African water fund. Through this ongoing effort, RAIN and TNC have invested in improving water security in Nairobi by restoring the Tana River, which supplies 95 percent of the water for the city’s four million residents, through training farmers in improved agricultural techniques. This project is expected to restore over 50,000 hectares of land and economically empower over 20,000 female farmers. To supplement the long-term benefits of improved watershed management, RAIN and TNC are also building capacity of the Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company to undertake thousands of new connections and expand water service to over 600,000 individuals.
In Somaliland, RAIN was quick to respond to the drought and famine that has swept across the Horn of Africa. Since 2013, RAIN has been partnering with Terre Solidali and the Hargeisa Water Agency to improve water service delivery in households and Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) settlements. As RAIN’s largest humanitarian response investment to date, this project will ultimately improve water access for nearly 20% of the entire Somaliland population, including first time water access for over 70% of the country’s internally displaced individuals.
Through a regional partnership with Amref Health Africa RAIN is working to improve water and sanitation access for over 300,000 individuals across Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, while also economically empowering women and youth.
These projects are just a few of the many investments Coca-Cola is making to improve water access through sustainable and environmentally responsible projects. To date, RAIN has measurably impacted the lives of over 1.2 million people within the Southern & East African geography and expects to reach an additional 2 million people by the end of 2020 through over 14 ongoing projects across 10 countries. RAIN has impacted over 2.8 million people to date across the entire continent and will reach a total of 6 million by the end of 2020.
This World Water Day, and every day, Coca-Cola is proud to be working with its partners such as the Global Environment & Technology Foundation (GETF), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), Millennium Challenge Corporation, WaterAid, Water for People, to improve the lives of people across the continent through water.
Find more information in the RAIN brochure.