As California enters its sixth year of record-breaking drought, 20 leading organizations this week announced the formation of the California Water Action Collaborative (CWAC), their collaborative effort to support critical projects designed to protect the state’s water future.
Formed as a working group of environmental organizations, food and beverage companies, non-profits, farmers, and local water districts, CWAC’s founding members are Ag Capital Management, Ag Innovations, Anheuser-Busch, Alliance for Water Stewardship, Campbell Soup Company, the CEO Water Mandate, The Coca-Cola Company, Driscoll’s, Ecolab, Future 500, General Mills, MillerCoors, The National Forest Foundation, Nestlé, OLAM, Pacific Institute, Sustainable Conservation, Sustainable Food Lab, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
“Water in California is ground zero for considering how we will meet the needs of people, business and nature in a crowded world and in dry times,” said Brian Stranko, TNC’s California Water Program Director. “CWAC provides a forum for the industry, non-profits and leading thinkers to take a big picture view of how we achieve a sustainable water future, as well as a conduit for testing ideas in real places on the ground right now to inform that future.”
Members came together with the understanding that no one company or organization can solve California’s water challenges alone. CWAC has launched four initial projects to collectively advance water security:
- Farmland Groundwater Recharge - Sustainable Conservation is leading a pioneering approach to boost San Joaquin Valley groundwater supplies. Extended drought has forced Central Valley farms and communities to turn to shrinking groundwater supplies to get by and left a record amount of farmland idle. The project involves applying excess floodwater to active and fallowed farmland, and allows water to percolate down to refill aquifers. The effort is supported by Campbell’s, General Mills, MillerCoors, and Coca-Cola.
- American River Headwaters - The Nature Conservancy is leading an effort to test how landscape-scale restoration can improve watershed health and wildlife habitat, reduce the risk of megafires, and potentially increase water supply. TNC will conduct research on a 10,115-acre forested property in the Sierra Nevadas to determine whether ecological thinning can measurably increase downstream water supply by allowing snowfall and rain to accumulate and replenish creeks and rivers. The effort is supported by MillerCoors, Nestlé, Coca-Cola and Anheuser-Busch.
- Corporate Water Stewardship and the California Water Action Plan - The CEO Water Mandate and Pacific Institute are facilitating a statewide collaboration with CWAC members Nestlé, Ag Innovations, Olam, WWF and others to identify opportunities where the private sector can accelerate progress toward the goals of the California Water Action Plan, improving the measurement, management, and stewardship of shared natural resources.
- San Gabriel and Big Tujunga Watershed - In 2015, Coca-Cola and MillerCoors began partnered with the National Forest Foundation and the US Forest Service to help restore hundreds of millions of gallons of water annually to the damaged San Gabriel and Big Tujunga watershed. By removing 50 acres of a water-intensive invasive species called Arundo donax, or giant cane, the project is returning significant amounts of water to area streams.
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These projects will continue to develop and new projects will emerge as CWAC’s membership grows and the state’s water challenges evolve.
“Water is a shared resource – one that communities, industry, government and the agricultural sector all rely on to ensure our shared prosperity,” said Nelson Switzer, Chief Sustainability Officer at Nestlé Waters North America. “CWAC will help members uncover new and creative ways to work together and define and take actions that benefit us all. We’re excited to be part of a model for collective action with the potential to be replicated in other regions.”