U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack and Coca-Cola Americas President Steve Cahillane today announced a public-private partnership to restore and protect damaged watersheds on national lands. Together these efforts aim to return more than a 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 Tallgrass Prairie in Illinois.
“By working together, we can better protect our nation’s watersheds and further enhance restoration efforts, even during challenging budget times,” said Secretary Vilsack. “Today’s partnership between Federal, private and non-profit partners is just one example of the strong collaboration that allows government to continue providing results for the American people.”
The new collaboration between government, business and community organizations, including the National Forest Foundation (NFF) and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), 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 United States in an effort to balance the water we use and help to ensure clean water supplies for communities,” said Steve Cahillane, President, Coca-Cola Americas. “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.