The Coca‑Cola Company is part of a coalition of partners working to restore a critical, drought-stricken watershed in Colorado. Since the summer of 2021, a National Forest Foundation (NFF)-led team of conservationists and volunteers has installed dozens of man-made beaver dams along a one-mile stretch of Trail Creek to help restore the natural ecosystems across nearly 130 acres of wetlands.
Trail Creek is a key tributary to the Taylor River, which flows into the Gunnison River. The Gunnison’s headwaters feed into the Colorado River. The pilot project is reconnecting the stream channel to the flood plain and spreading out water over adjacent wetlands to reestablish the native habitat.
“This is where the Colorado River’s headwaters begin, so cleaning up and repairing these streams is like fixing the primary wellhead. We’re ‘re-wetting the sponge’, so to speak, by keeping water gradually flowing downstream versus coming in big ebbs and flows,” said Marcus Selig, Chief Conservation Officer for the NFF, a Congressionally-chartered foundation of the United States Forest Service (USFS).
The low-tech, nature-based restoration process mimics the work of beavers, who build dams with sticks and muds to create deep-water water ponds to live and fish in through the winter. Partners are essentially piling up sticks in the stream channel to back up water and spread it back out across the landscape.
Beaver colonies have since returned to the area to take over what the team started, effectively slowing water runoff during snowmelt and the rainy season and slowly releasing the flow over the summer and into the fall.
The Coca‑Cola Company, The Coca‑Cola Foundation and Swire Coca‑Cola collectively support the project. The partnership supports the company’s goal to return the amount of water used in its beverages to nature and local communities, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals 6 and 14, through a focus on priority watersheds.
Driving Collective Action Through a Longstanding Partnership
“We’ve been working with Coca‑Cola for more than 10 years on projects like these,” Selig said. “In addition to providing critical funding, they are an influencer in the water sustainability space leading the way with target-based commitments and inspiring others to get onboard.”
The USFS and The Coca‑Cola Company are both dedicated to the efficient use and long-term sustainability of available water supplies for agriculture, fish and wildlife protection, recreation, drinking water and other beneficial uses. In 2012, the partners formalized their shared interest in protecting water resources with the launch of a pioneering public-private partnership to restore watersheds on National Forest System lands across the United States. To date, The Coca‑Cola Company has invested more than $2.6 million in the partnership.
The partnership taps the collective expertise of community organizations to address increasing stress on water resources. Dozens of local communities and hundreds of volunteers have worked together on water resource management education and stewardship activities.
Water stewardship has long been a business imperative at Coca‑Cola. In 2015, it became the first Fortune 500 company to replenish all water used in our finished beverages globally—five years ahead of plan—and have done so every year since, shifting its focus toward making a greater impact on people and ecosystems. The company’s 2030 Water Security Strategy is focused on accelerating the actions needed to increase water security where they operate, source ingredients and touch people’s lives.
Learn more about The Coca‑Cola Company’s global water stewardship initiatives.