As California’s devastating drought enters its fourth year and local organizations are appealing to residents to rein in their water use, a diverse coalition of companies with skin in the game — food and beverage giants General Mills, Driscoll’s and Coca-Cola North America, Gap Inc., Symantec and home builder KB Home — are coming together to launch a new campaign urging companies to enact more aggressive measures to maximize California's local and state water resources.
Coordinated by the nonprofit sustainability advocacy organization Ceres**, the “Connect the Drops” campaign** centers on a public declaration, signed by companies, stating:
“We cannot risk our state’s economic future by relying on outdated water management practices, policies and infrastructure. Now is the time for fresh thinking, shared purpose and bold solutions to build a resilient water future for all Californians. And it is incumbent on us — the business community — to help lead the way.”
“Connect the Drops will bring the much-needed business voice to the table on water policy in Sacramento," said Kirsten James, a Senior Manager at Ceres who is directing the Connect the Drops campaign. "It is critical for a diverse group of stakeholders to demand aggressive action from our state leaders in order to secure California’s water future."
Currently 93 percent of California is categorized as being in a severe, extreme or exceptional drought. The state’s agriculture economy lost more than $2.2 billion in 2014, and farmers left more than half a million acres of fields unplanted.
“Water is an issue we can no longer take for granted – whether we are looking at supply reliability, environmental protection, or water quality. Fortunately, there are solutions within reach for the challenges we face. The business community’s voice in elevating the issues – through efforts like Connect the Drops – is hugely important for the future of our state’s economy and well-being,” said Felicia Marcus, Chair of the State Water Resources Control Board.
By signing the declaration, companies agree to 1) make and implement business commitments to support the state’s action plan for water conservation, and 2) engage with policymakers, employees, customers and their peers on improving water management and enhancing water efficiency.
For example, Driscoll’s – the world’s largest berry company – has implemented a host of measures in the Pajaro Valley, from requiring its growers there to report groundwater use, to co-founding a public-private partnership called the Community Water Dialogue. The Pajaro Valley Community Water Dialogue is working on the development of groundwater recharge zones and supporting the use of technologies for irrigation management.
“Driscoll’s roots in California stretch back nearly 150 years in the Pajaro Valley where Driscoll’s originated,” said Kelley Bell, VP of Social and Environmental Impact at Driscoll’s. “As a family-owned company that is highly dependent on groundwater, we recognize that our future hinges on reliable water sources. Without good water stewardship our communities will suffer and the future economy of California will be bleak. We joined Ceres’ campaign because we are not alone in facing this challenge or in recognizing the threat, and the solution will only come from a shared understanding of the problem and a willingness to address it together.”
Coca-Cola North America, which runs 53 facilities in California, has implemented water-efficiency improvements, saving nearly 280 million gallons of water.
“Coca-Cola recognizes that clean, accessible water is essential to the health of communities and ecosystems – and is indispensable for economic prosperity,” said Jon Radtke, manager of sustainability for Coca-Cola North America. “In California and around the world, we work with our facilities, local water agencies and community partners to evaluate water resources and maximize water conservation efforts. Initiatives like Connect the Drops are important as our water resources become more stressed. By working together with other businesses, government and civil society, we hope to make a much greater impact than any one organization or sector could hope to achieve alone.”
KB Home, one of the nation’s largest homebuilders, has developed the Double ZeroHouse, which uses less than half the water of an average home.
"KB Home has prioritized water conservation in our development projects,” said Larry Gotlieb**, VP of** Government and Public Affairs at KB Home**.** “The Connect the Drops campaign will help the California business community highlight to elected officials that efforts spent on water stewardship now will ensure the strength of California’s economy for decades to come."
General Mills also operates several production facilities in California and sources large quantities of ingredients from thousands of tomato, almond, berry, dairy and other farmers across the state.
“General Mills takes its responsibility to be good stewards of the planet’s resources very seriously and, in California, that means reducing our water usage at our production facilities and working with our growers and suppliers to ensure agriculture continues to thrive in a sustainable manner, said Ellen Silva, senior manager of Global Sustainability at General Mills. “We firmly believe that in order for California citizens, businesses, farmers and the ecosystem to thrive, we must all work together to manage the water supply sustainably.”
While NASA recently estimated 11 trillion gallons of water — roughly 1.5 times the maximum volume of the largest U.S. reservoir — are needed to recover from California's continuing drought, water scarcity is a global concern, topping the list of the World Economic Forum’s 2015 Global Risks report, and businesses in a variety of industries are banding together to ensure a water-stable future.