In 2007, The Coca-Cola Company set the ambitious goal of achieving water neutrality in its bottling operations by 2020.  What this means is that Coca-Cola had decided that in 13 years it would seek to safely return back to communities and nature an equivalent amount of water to that required for the production of its various products. The Coca-Cola Company and its bottling partners are working to achieve this water balance through diverse, locally focused community water projects.

Here in Canada, Coca-Cola is well on its way to achieving this lofty goal through a variety of projects in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec. As of 2015, these projects are delivering almost 600 million liters per year in replenish benefits. The business unit works with partners such as World Wildlife Fund, Nature Conservancy of Canada, Ducks Unlimited and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. Some examples of Coca-Cola’s water projects in Canada are highlighted below:

TRCA Tommy Thompson Wetland Park, Toronto

Tommy Thompson Park (TTP) is located on the Leslie Street Spit, a 5 kilometre man-made peninsula that extends into Lake Ontario just east of downtown Toronto. Historically, the spit was used for industrial and shipping activities and disposal of rubble and fill from the construction industry and sediment dredging. Through a partnership with Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), Coca-Cola is supporting a project that focuses on a 9.5-hectare disposal cell (Cell 2) that reached capacity in 1997. The ecological conditions within the cell prior to the project were incredibly poor as a result of contaminated sediments and limited habitat quality.

The sediments that made up the aquatic substrate within the cell exceed Canadian Environmental Quality Guidelines for contaminated sediments. Through Coca-Cola’s support, the TRCA is working to cap the contaminated sediment thus making it biologically unavailable, and creating a hemi-marsh ecosystem to improve fish and wildlife habitat. More information can be found here.(In English only).

Once complete, this project will provide more than 1 billion liters per year in replenish benefits in addition to restoring vital aquatic habitat and providing unique recreational opportunities for Toronto’s urban community.

Rain Barrel Donation Program

Coca‐Cola is partnering with watershed conservation organizations, municipalities, universities, and community groups throughout North America to distribute 55‐gallon syrup drums used in the Company’s beverage production for reuse as rain barrels. The vast majority of Coca-Cola’s partner organizations are supporting rain barrel use for residential properties. Once installed, the collected water can serve a number of useful purposes around the home from gardening work in a back yard to chores like washing the car. By collecting rainwater that normally flows off a property, rain barrels save money on water bills, conserve water during dry periods and prevent polluted runoff. The reuse of these 55‐gallon barrels not only helps in watershed protection through decreased storm water runoff, but also eliminates the energy Coca‐Cola would have expended recycling the plastic barrels. Since 2008, a total of 6,162 rain barrels have been donated from 8 Coca-Cola facilities in Canada, creating ongoing community watershed partnerships throughout Canada.  This program is replenishing an estimated 39 million liters per year of water back to the system.

Ducks Unlimited Wetland Protection, Saskatchewan

Ducks Unlimited and Coca-Cola have partnered on wetland conservation activities in the Prairie Pothole Region of Canada. The Prairie Pothole Region is an area of the northern Great Plains that contains thousands of shallow wetlands known as potholes or kettle ponds.  These wetlands serve as a freshwater source and breeding ground habitat that is vital to waterfowl in the region.

“This is a great example of a win-win partnership,” Ducks Unlimited Director of Development Shawn Battison said. “Coca-Cola obtained another 121 million liters towards their water neutrality goal, and Ducks Unlimited restored and permanently protected another 121 acres of vital wetland habitat in the most important breeding area for North America’s waterfowl.”    

Although wetlands are consistently regarded as among the most valuable ecosystems, unfortunately they are also among the most threatened in North America. By protecting existing wetlands and restoring degraded ones, Coca-Cola helps to increase annual floodwater storage and contributes to the overall health of the watershed ecosystem.  Each acre of wetland replenishes 1 million liters of water to nature that otherwise would have been lost due to water diversion had the land been altered for development.

Working with landowners, Coca-Cola conserved 75.2 acres of wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region through conservation easements.  A conservation easement is a legal agreement that a land owner makes to restrict the type and amount of development that may take place on his or her property. This “avoided loss” scenario has ensured that valuable ecosystem services provided by wetlands such as floodwater storage, nutrient reduction and carbon storage to mitigate climate change impacts have been maintained.

The Coca-Cola Foundation grant to Ducks Unlimited was also used to restore 46 acres of wetlands on permanently secured land in the Prairie Pothole Region. The benefits resulting from the restoration of these previously degraded wetland basins will continue in perpetuity as part of Ducks Unlimited’s Revolving Land Conservation Program. Under this program Ducks Unlimited purchases habitat, restores wetlands and adjacent upland areas, puts a perpetual conservation easement on the land and sells the property back into the community for use under sustainable agricultural practices that protect its hydrology for waterfowl habitat.

“It’s partnerships like this one with Ducks Unlimited that will help us meet our water neutrality goal by 2020, which is to put back into nature an amount of fresh water equal to what we use in our finished beverages,” said Bill Schultz, President of Coca-Cola Refreshments Canada Company.