Beverage Companies Adopt Water-Saving Practices

Upon realizing the implications that climate change could have on their industry due to a growing global water shortage, several beverage companies have invested their money and effort into conserving water around the world. The Dr Pepper Snapple Group has dedicated $1.1 million to the Nature Conservancy, and is now working to conserve a pristine field outside of Houston. The coastal area is so large that it could hold 300 football fields, and is ripe for development – but Dr Pepper is fighting to keep it undeveloped and wild in order to preserve the environment and conserve water.

The money it has invested in the Nature Conservancy will go towards conserving five watersheds in Texas (where the Dr Pepper Snapple Group sources the water in its beverages from) and re-seeding grass in the coastal prairie area to restore the ecosystem to its natural state.

The company, which also bottles several other popular beverage brands including Sunkist, 7-UP, A&W root beer, Nantucket Nectars, and Hawaiian Punch, says that a deficiency of water would hurt their business, as water is the main ingredient in their drinks.

Other global beverage companies, such as Coca-Cola and MillerCoors, have stated that a lack of water is a concern for their businesses. These and other soft drink and brewing companies formed the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER) in 2006 to address problems regarding low water supply, energy, and other topics that are central to the beverage industry’s prosperity. The group has invested an estimated $500 million in water conservation projects since its inception, bringing clean and ample water to people in India, China, and Africa and renovating their own factories to include water-efficient processing equipment and technology that has saved millions of gallons of water and dollars.

Laura Huffman, Texas state director for the Nature Conservancy, said, “If there’s not fresh water, there’s no business — it’s just that simple. It is their number one infrastructure concern. … Water tops the list, above roads, above energy, above all else, because if you don’t get water right, you’re not making anything.”

Future expansion plans have also given beverage companies an incentive to conserve water, as many of these companies hope to establish a presence in developing countries. These nations are the most likely to be the most severely affected by the effects of climate change, including drought, and without a sufficient water supply, beverage companies will not be able to operate in these countries.

These companies have committed to reaching concrete and attainable goals to save water, including cleaning bottles with air rather than water, reducing water consumption and waste, and preserving waterways worldwide. Their efforts have paid off: BIER companies as a whole have reduced their water use by 9 percent and 10.3 billion gallons; Dr Pepper is on its way to reducing water use and waste by 10 percent per gallon of finished beverage; Coca-Cola has decreased water use by 20 percent, given 35 percent of water used back to the environment, and plans to achieve water neutrality; and Pepsi Co. has also raised its water efficiency by 20 percent, projecting a water savings of $17 million in the next five years. With its initiative to provide access to clean drinking water to rural areas of developing countries and its partnership with environmental groups, Pepsi hopes to reduce the number of hours – currently estimated at 200 million every day – that people spend delivering water to dry areas, and therefore enable people to work more (and buy more Pepsi products).

While the beverage industry has made great strides and an impact on the world’s supply of water, it still faces the issue of plastic, as most of its products are bottled in plastic containers that aren’t recycled. 

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/toprankblog/2978925649

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