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Coca-Cola To ‘Replace’ Water It Uses

The Coca-Cola Company is giving the World Wildlife Fund $20 million to conserve and protect freshwater resources. In doing so, the company says its global beverage operations, including those of its franchise bottlers will “replace” the water it uses in its beverages and their production. But there is a problem with exactly how Coca-Cola will measure if it is really “putting back” the water it takes out since, as the company states, “the concept of balancing water use is not well defined.”

In 2006, The Coca-Cola Company and its franchised bottlers used approximately 290 billion liters of water for beverage production. Of that amount, approximately 114 billion liters were contained in the Company’s broad portfolio of beverages sold in markets around the world, and another 176 billion liters were used in beverage manufacturing processes such as rinsing, cleaning, heating and cooling.

To “replace” the water, Coca-Cola says it will:

Set specific water efficiency targets for global operations by 2008 to be the most efficient user of water within peer companies.

Return all water that it uses for manufacturing to the environment at a level that supports aquatic life and agriculture by the end of 2010.

Expand support of healthy watersheds and sustainable communities to balance the water used in its finished beverages – through its $20 million pledge to WWF. The support will include a wide range of local initiatives, such as watershed protection, community water access, rain water harvesting, reforestation and agricultural water use efficiency.

According to the press release, WWF and Coca-Cola itself will measure the impact of Coca-Cola and its bottling activities on water availability and decide how much water Coca-Cola should and is “putting back.”

“We are focusing on water because this is where The Coca-Cola Company can have a real and positive impact,” said E. Neville Isdell, Chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company. “Our goal is to replace every drop of water we use in our beverages and their production.”

The company also will explore how to eventually set targets to improve water efficiency for its water-thirsty agricultural partners, including sugar cane producers, the Associated Press reports.

That is important because of the huge amount of water needed to grow sugar cane, said Jason Clay, a WWF researcher.

“For every liter of Coke, just the sugar in it requires between 175 and 250 liters (46 to 66 gallons) of water. This is the big issue,” he said. “They really need to get a handle on sugar.”

Clay said Coca-Cola was encouraging sugar cane producers to conserve water, and was looking at sugar alternatives.

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