WILMINGTON – U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Coca-Cola Americas President Steve Cahillane announced Friday a public-private partnership to restore and protect damaged watersheds on national lands.
Together these efforts aim to return more than one billion liters of water to the National Forest System, which provides drinking water to more than 60 million Americans. The announcement was made at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in Wilmington.
"By working together, we can better protect our nation's watersheds and further enhance restoration efforts, even during challenging budget times," Vilsack said. "Today's partnership between federal, private and nonprofit partners is just one example of the strong collaboration that allows government to continue providing results for the American people."
The new collaboration among government, business and community organizations, including the National Forest Foundation and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which have also contributed funding for these projects, will leverage collective expertise to address increasing challenges on water resources.
Additionally, federal dollars spent on these projects have been matched two-to-one by Coca-Cola, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the National Forest Foundation.
"Coca-Cola supports more than 100 water projects throughout the Unites States in an effort to balance the water we use and help to ensure clean water supplies for communities," Cahillane said. "Our experience, combined with the knowledge and resources of USDA and other partners, will exponentially increase efforts to create healthier, more sustainable communities for all Americans."
USDA's Forest Service, Coca-Cola, the NFF and NFWF began working together in 2012 to restore natural resources and wildfire-damaged watersheds. For example, stream channels impacted by severe wildfires are now rehabilitated and help provide clean water for the greater Denver area.
In California's Sierra Nevada Mountains, water is returned to its natural flow through a meadow improving the watershed that supplies the East Bay area.
These projects and others like them have already replenished an estimated half billion liters of water. The partnership announced Friday will expand these efforts, improving additional watersheds and returning more water to nature.
Near Chicago, water will be restored to a wetland that had once been drained, replenishing the aquifer.
Invasive weeds on California's Angeles National Forest will be removed, improving water supplies for residents of Los Angeles and forest wildlife.
A New Mexico stream, altered by historic mining activity, will be redirected to its natural flow, improving water quality and groundwater storage.
In the Lake Michigan watershed, a stream will be restored to its natural flow, reducing flooding, enhancing aquatic habitat, and improving water quality.
The U.S. Forest Service and Coca-Cola are committed to continuing their work together to sustain our nation's water supply. The organizations signed an agreement formalizing their partnership to continue collaboration through 2018.
ABOUT USDA AND THE FOREST SERVICE
The National Forest System of the U.S. Forest Service provides drinking water to more than 60 million Americans. Stewardship of these public lands for forest and watershed health is imperative for ensuring adequate water supply, providing high quality water for needs across the nation, protecting reservoir storage capacity, minimizing sedimentation load, enhancing ecosystem health, maintaining recreational values, and public safety.
By maintaining and restoring natural resources and wildfire-damaged habitats while working to reduce wildfire risk, healthy forests help maintain shared value in ecosystem services. Such activities and proactive investment protect our nation's water supply and provide examples of cooperative projects that can be employed in other critical watersheds around the globe, thereby allowing forested watersheds to continue providing water at a far lower cost than would otherwise be possible.
ABOUT THE COCA-COLA COMPANY
The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE: KO) is the world's largest beverage company, refreshing consumers with more than 500 sparkling and still brands. Led by Coca- Cola, the world's most valuable brand, the company's portfolio features 16 billion-dollar brands including Diet Coke, Fanta, Sprite, Coca-Cola Zero, vitaminwater, Powerade, Minute Maid, Simply, Georgia and Del Valle.
Globally, it is the No. 1 provider of sparkling beverages, ready-to-drink coffees, and juices and juice drinks. Through the world's largest beverage distribution system, consumers in more than 200 countries enjoy its beverages at a rate of more than 1.8 billion servings a day.
With an enduring commitment to building sustainable communities, the Coca-Cola Company is focused on initiatives that reduce our environmental footprint, support active, healthy living, create a safe, inclusive work environment for our associates, and enhance the economic development of the communities where it operates. Together with its bottling partners, the company rank among the world's top 10 private employers with more than 700,000 system associates.