World Water Day on 22 March has been an annual United Nations Observance since 1993 to encourage the globe to celebrate safe water and raise awareness of those living without it. World Water Day is geared towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: Water and sanitation for all by 2030. Successful water stewards demonstrate how businesses can contribute to this goal whilst implementing strategies for water stewardship in their environments and production processes.
As an essential ingredient in the popular beverages of the company, water is a serious component in Coca-Cola’s mission to quench thirst. Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa (CCBSA) is a leader in responsible water use, having three strategies for water stewardship: watershed restoration and protection, the provision of access to water and awareness campaigns in vulnerable communities, and reduced use through regenerative operations.
WATERSHED RESTORATION AND PROTECTION
CCBSA’s watershed restoration and protection projects aim to ensure that natural surface water sources are optimised by improving the land’s ability to collect and retain water. Through partnerships with executing entities, CCBSA has launched community-based environmental management projects that clear invasive species, rehabilitate wetlands, and restore the terrain alongside water channels. As a bonus, more than 185 jobs have been created.CCBSA’s five watershed projects have replenished a quantified volume of 560 million litres of water in 2021 alone. Watershed health, in addition to sustainable rangeland stewardship and environmental education, is essential for long-term, sustainable, and cost-effective water security.
This year’s World Water Day theme is Groundwater, and focuses on the possibilities and importance of responsible groundwater usage. Groundwater is naturally clean and safe for consumption, but constitutes only between 12.5% and 20% of South Africa’s total water use. Through professionally engineered harvesting systems, groundwater, also known as borehole water, can supplement municipal water requirements and provide communities with the opportunity to create their own independent, sustainable and secure water supply systems. The Coke Ville project, launched by CCBSA in 2020, illustrates how solar-powered borehole systems can provide water access to vulnerable communities, even in areas which have experienced long-term water shortages. The project provides safe water to seven disadvantaged communities in four provinces, benefitting more than 2500 households per location. CCBSA surpassed its own target in 2021, attaining 163% of its target by replenishing more than 130 million litres of water. The Department of Water and Sanitation and relevant municipalities have been invited to partner with the company to manage and engage the communities involved.
In neighbouring disadvantaged communities, water is collected from the systems and distributed by water tankers through partnerships with district municipalities. CCBSA covers the costs of the water tankers in certain areas for a number of years to make a remarkable impact. In addition, CCBSA has distributed water wheelers to individuals for the transportation of water from the water points to their homes.
REGENERATIVE WATER USE
Businesses can implement water stewardship principles and strategies in every aspect of operation and production. Coca-Cola expects all their facilities to adopt water stewardship principles and aims to achieve regenerative water use. In South Africa, CCBSA has already reduced their water usage to a product ratio of 1.55 litres of water used to produce one litre of product. Through water-conscious initiatives and technologies, the company uses water efficiently in production and treats their wastewater to the highest standard possible.
FUTURE INITIATIVES TO SUPPORT
CCBSA intends to further future water stewardship by investing in solar desalination plants, greywater recycling plants, leak detection projects, and sustainable agricultural irrigation projects. As we celebrate World Water Day, companies and individuals are encouraged to explore opportunities for improvement in their own environments, communities, and practices.