Coca-Cola’s investment in the Greater Cape Town Water Fund is recharging Cape Town’s largest aquifer by empowering women to clear water-intensive alien plants.

The Coca-Cola Foundation (TCCF), Coca-Cola Peninsula Beverages (PenBev), and The Nature Conservancy (TNC), along with other partners, recently celebrated the completion of a successful pilot project for The Greater Cape Town Water Fund. As a founding investor in the Water Fund, TCCF’s investment of US$150,000 has helped to clear 64 hectares of invasive plants in the Atlantis area of the Western Cape, and empowered 12 females through skills transfer and employment.

The Greater Cape Town Water Fund is working with authorities, the private sector, NGOs and communities to restore the Atlantis aquifer, Cape Town’s largest. By December 2019, the Water Fund will have replenished at least 10,000,000 litres of water to the Atlantis aquifer by clearing 64 hectares of invasive plants in the aquifer’s primary recharge zone. Invasive plants, such as Australian Acacias, consume more water than the native Fynbos vegetation, limiting rainwater recharge to the aquifer. The Fund employs local female job seekers to clear these invasive plants.

Empowering women to clear water-intensive alien plants

“Water Funds are unique financing vehicles that invest in innovative and pioneering initiatives to manage water supplies. We are very excited about our investment in this Water Fund in particular as it will have a positive impact on more than 70,000 people in Witzands and Silverstroom as well as alleviate pressure and increase water security across Cape Town’s water supply system, which serves 4 million people,” explains Dorcas Onyango, Head of Sustainability for Coca-Cola Southern & East Africa.

Over time, the Atlantis aquifer pilot project will be scaled up to priority catchments in the Western Cape Water Supply System to secure water supply. By restoring natural vegetation cover at a large scale, the Water Fund will help catalyze a significant increase in aquifer recharge and help boost water availability.

 “Alien plant invasions in the Greater Cape Town region’s catchments are responsible for the loss of 38 million liters of water each year, equivalent to meeting the water requirements of Cape Town for two months. The Greater Cape Town Water Fund works with partners to control thirsty invader plants, restore strategic wetlands and riverine areas, and thereby address these water losses,” said Louise Stafford, The Nature Conservancy’s Water Fund Project Director for South Africa. With a continous need to remove alien plant species, a sustainable business opportunity has been developed for local female entrepreneurs, supported through The Water Fund.

Greater Cape Town Water Fund Efforts

The Nature Conservancy has 29 Water Funds in operation and 30 more in development — all of which are designed to protect the upstream and aquifer water source regions that provide water to large urban centres.

Coca-Cola’s response to the crisis in Cape Town, in addition to investment in the Greater Cape Town Water Fund, includes finding alternatives to municipal water for its beverage production, as well as the provisioning of emergency bottled water supplies. “Over the past 11 years, Coca-Cola Peninsula Beverages has reduced the use of water dramatically in the manufacturing process and has one of the best water usage ratios across the Coca-Cola system. Our promise of caring for the communities we service as well as the environment remains of paramount importance to us as a business. We are very proud to be part of the Cape Town Water Fund which has made great progress in such a short space of time,” explains Priscilla Urquhart, Public Affairs and Communications Manager for Coca-Cola Peninsula Beverages.

With water stress and scarcity being the new normal for many regions across South Africa, The Nature Conservancy calls on all partners and other investors like The Coca-Cola Company, to invest in these strategic investment models to manage water resources and optimize water supply.