Water Stress – New Global Headache

www.MyPE.co.za: A
third of the world’s people might have access to only half the water
they need in the next decades if nothing is done on a sustainable basis
right now. And South Africa is particularly vulnerable.

The high amount of water usage in South Africa – as much as 25% of its
renewable freshwater resources – puts it way above that of its
sub-Saharan neighbours. And causing water stress, that is when the
amount of water used exceeds 10% of renewable resources.

Companies that rely on water for manufacturing or production processes
need to look at ways of re-using their waste water for energy and
irrigation. This is one way of stretching existing resources.

This is a global problem and it has been estimated that has much as 80%
of waste water is being discharged untreated in developing countries
because of lack of regulations and resources.

Global giant Coca-Cola is an industry leader in this regard – all its
production facilities in South Africa have water treatment plants. It
has a long-standing commitment to not only replace the water that it
uses in the production of its beverages, but also on broader issues of
water stewardship.

It is one of the biggest industrial consumers of water in the world –
with products that are about 90% water- based and so invests half its
CSI budget on water-related programmes globally.

Says William Asiko, President of the Coca-Cola Foundation: “We are
mindful of our responsibilities of preserving shared resources.

“We are achieving this with three main strategies: to reduce
the water we use in our bottling plants through increased efficiencies,
to recycle or treat all the process water to a standard that supports
aquatic life and to replenish by supporting water community projects in
Africa with our partners to improve access to water and sanitation, to
protect water resources and habitats, and to raise awareness about
preserving water.”

As part of its contribution to solving these water issues under its
Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN), Coca-Cola has committed $30 million
over six years, with the aim of providing over two million people with
access to clean water and sanitation and hygiene education. They will
also launch over 100 sustainable community water accesses, sanitation
and hygiene programmes across Africa and contribute to the
sustainability of water resources for communities across Africa.

And on a local level, Coca-Cola is using its partnership of the 2010
FIFA World Cup™, to not only highlight the need for water stewardship
in South Africa but to also bring clean drinking water to 100 of the
most vulnerable schools in its “Water for Schools” campaign.

Coca-Cola’s “Water for Schools” programme will focus on all nine
provinces in communities most vulnerable to water-borne diseases.

“We are trying to help children, who, perhaps, are drinking out of the
same river that they wash in. Our programme includes the installation
of sanitation facilities as well as hygiene education,” says Asiko.

Other projects that form part of Coca-Cola’s commitment to water
stewardship under the RAIN strategy include those being run by the
global NGO, the Family Health Institute (FHI), in priority districts
which have been earmarked as high risk areas by the Department of
Health.

Their first project will be at the remote Ramotshinyadi village in the
Limpopo province, where 12 400 people rely on only two boreholes – the
other 11 have stopped functioning – and a river for their water needs.

The Elliotdale Rural Water Project is another project where Coca-Cola,
together with the United States Agency for International Development
(USAID) and its Water & Development Alliance (WADA) programme
are funding improved access to safe water in the Mbashe area of the
Eastern Cape.

The project, which is run the by the Mvula Trust, will bring piped
water to approximately 5 500 people living in villages surrounding the
town of Elliotdale in the Amathole District Municipality. This involves
the refurbishment of existing infrastructure and the construction of
more than 13km of new pipeline.

It is estimated that 1.1 billion people globally rely on unsafe
drinking water sources. Lack of safe water and sanitation is the
world’s single largest cause of illness, according to UNICEF.

The toll on children is especially high. About 4 500 children die each
day from unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation facilities.
Countless others suffer from poor health, diminished productivity and
missed opportunities for education.

“In a groundbreaking McKinsey report, commissioned by a group of global
companies which included Coca-Cola – the 2030 Water Resources Group –
it was found that if no action is taken, projected population and
economic growth will lead to global water demand that is 40% in excess
of current supply by the year 2030,” adds Asiko.

This means that one-third of the world’s population would have access
to only half the water they need.

Yet there is hope. The report, “Charting our Water
Future”, released in November last year, not only provided clarity on
the scale of the water challenge but also charted a way forward using
cost-effective measures and existing technologies.

The 2010 FIFA World Cup™, is a major focal point for Coca-Cola
community initiatives this year: “Not only are we trying to capture the
spirit of the match in all the work that we do, but we are also trying
to bring some of the joy and excitement of football to as many South
Africans as possible through initiatives such as the World Cup Trophy
Tour,” says Asiko.

“The Trophy Tour should help highlight the challenges that we face in
South Africa. And, hopefully, behind all the hoopla and merrymaking,
communities will have a chance to focus on the more serious and
compelling issues around water stress- issues that ultimately
affect their daily lives.

“At Coca-Cola
we believe that water is a basic human need that is
essential for life. While it is government’s role to provide water
services – piping, purification and sanitation – for its citizens,
business has a responsibility to manage water responsibly. We respect
the critical role water plays in community development and we work to
manage our use of water in a sustainable way.”

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