Seed funding provided by The Coca-Cola Foundation has helped catalyse further investment in The Greater Cape Town Water Fund - boosting efforts to protect and preserve water by removing alien vegetation from the main water catchment in this water-scarce area.

The Foundation began its support for The Nature Conservancy (TNC)’s Water Fund, along with other partners, in 2016 before the devastating drought that gripped the region. With The Foundation’s pilot project providing a solid proof of concept, other corporate partners have come on board, bringing the total commitment close to US$3m to the Fund.

The Foundation’s seed funding of US$150,000 to the Water Fund supported the training and empowerment of a team of 12 women to clear 100 hectares of land, which will replenish an expected 16m litres of water annually, optimising the capacity of the Atlantis aquifer. This will provide improved water security to the more than 61,000 people living in the impoverished towns of Atlantis, Mamre and Pella and reduce strain on the Western Cape’s dam supply.

A new business case presented by The Nature Conservancy shows clearing invasive trees could unlock two months of extra water a year for Cape Town at a tenth of the cost of other plans, such as desalination plants or re-using waste water. This is equivalent to building a major new dam – just by clearing non-native trees from water catchments. With the additional financial commitments from other partners, the Atlantis aquifer pilot project will be scaled up to other priority catchments in The Western Cape Water Supply System to secure water supply. 

The Foundation supports Water Funds as a way of bringing public and private sector partners together to finance water security. Pioneered by The Nature Conservancy, a global conservation organisation which operates more than 30 Water Funds across the world, Water Funds identify large-scale water users who need secure and clean supplies ‘downstream’ at the tap who pay for nature-based programmes to improve water quality and quantity ‘upstream’ at the top. 

The Coca-Cola Foundation brings additional value through its years of expertise in water security and replenishment activities in local communities across the continent. In fact, The Coca-Cola Foundation invested in Africa’s first Water Fund, the Upper Tana Nairobi Water Fund, which aims to address poor upstream land management issues which have produced inconsistent water supply for 65% of Nairobi’s residents. Since the start of work in 2013, the Upper Tana Water Fund has reduced water delivery disruptions by 30% and The Coca-Cola Foundation brings these learnings and best practices to its support of the Greater Cape Town Water Fund.

Another example of The Foundation’s support for watershed management is the Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN)-funded work in the Baviaanskloof of the Eastern Cape, a key upstream catchment area for the Kouga Dam, which supplies 30% of the water for the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality. Since 2016, The Foundation has invested US$400,000 in a project lead by Living Lands, which aims to stabalise degraded land by changing farming practices and applying innovative restoration techniques on key slopes within the valley. By restoring the land to the natural vegetation, estimates indicate that more than 1,000 million litres will be replenished annually once the thicket has regrown. 

Because water is a primary ingredient in most of Coca-Cola’s beverages and used during beverage production, as well as to grow the agricultural ingredients on which the company relies, engagement in these Water Funds continues to be an important part of The Coca-Cola Company’s commitment to sustainable business practices. The Water Fund approach shows that no one company or organisation can solve the world’s water issues alone, but through innovative partnership this vital shared resource can be protected.