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Water Deeply Talks: Water Risks to What We Eat and Drink

Many food and beverage companies operating in the West are preparing for water risks. In our latest Water Deeply talk, Tara Lohan speaks with three experts about water security challenges and benefits.

Written by Ian Evans Published on Read time Approx. 1 minutes
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Siphon tubes used for furrow irrigation on romaine lettuce in Yuma, Arizona.Jeff Vanuga/USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

In this episode of “Deeply Talks,” Tara Lohan, managing editor of Water Deeply, and a panel of experts discuss water use in industries in the West that grow and produce food and beverages. Tara is joined by Kirsten James, the director of California policy and partnerships at Ceres, Lindsay Bass, the head of the World Wildlife Fund’s Corporate Water Stewardship Initiative and Marco Ugarte, the sustainability manager at MillerCoors.

During California’s five-year drought, many companies that make the food we eat and the beverages we drink saw impacts on their businesses. And companies across the Western United States are seeing water challenges not just from drought, but also from climate change, pollution, failing infrastructure and weak regulations.

When these water challenges arise, companies “can’t necessarily just move,” said James. “They do need to address these issues in their backyard.”

For MillerCoors, that has meant not just examining brewery operations, but looking at its entire supply chain and ways in which it can partner with others.

“Over time you realize that the larger opportunity and the larger impact, either individually or collectively, lies outside of your organization – within that community, within that value chain,” said Ugarte. Now, MillerCoors is reaching out to that community of farmers and other suppliers to see how their water footprint can be even further reduced.

Still, even when companies are making serious efforts to address water use, it can be hard for consumers to identify those companies, said Bass. One of the ways that WWF has been trying to solve that is by encouraging companies to talk more about the actions that they are taking and the journey that they have taken toward water conservation.

“I think that it’s important for consumers to understand the process, as well as the challenges that these companies face,” said Bass. “Finding ways for credible progress reporting is absolutely essential … If they’re talking to you or they’re posting and messaging around that progress, I think that is [a] good flag for consumers to be on the lookout for. And if they’re not, ask for it.”

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