Latin America overall has bountiful supplies of water; in fact, the World Bank estimates that 31 percent of the world’s freshwater resources can be found in this region. But that does not mean citizens necessarily have equal access to this vital resource, and climate change could have a drastic effect on future supplies of water. PepsiCo, working with the Inter-American Bank (IDB) and European governments, has released a new data management program with the aim to assist Latin American nations with forecasting future water availability and supplies.
The modelling tool, which the IDB has named Hydro-BID, is an open-sourced program that has already projected water supplies in Argentina, Brazil, Haiti and Argentina. Pepsi announced Hydro-BID’s launch at the annual World Water Week in Stockholm.
Access to such a tool is important for managing water supplies throughout Latin America because the evidence suggests climate change has already had in impact on water management within the region.
Water-rich Brazil, which generates much of its electricity from hydropower, has seen its economic center, São Paulo, reel from its worst drought in 80 years. Argentina is a prime example of how access to clean water is a huge challenge in many rural areas while wealthier areas take it for granted. The rapid growth of Peru’s capital, Lima, has led to many of its residents living without reliable supplies of running water. In Haiti, Water.org estimates that only 60 percent of the nation’s people have access to clean water, and 1 in 5 is able to use a toilet. According to Pepsi, Hydro-BID has already projected water supplies in these countries to the degree that up to 3 million people could benefit from safer supplies of water by 2017.
To date the PepsiCo Foundation has funded IDB with $5 million for the fund’s water and sanitation investment arm, AquaFund, to roll out Hydro-BID. The goal is to go beyond projects to improve clean water and sanitation access to citizens in poor neighborhoods and urban areas. This resource, according to Pepsi, will help countries with allocating water, the measurement of watersheds, plan for the long term, plus help communities and their leaders prepare for droughts and floods. Despite recent economic hiccups, Latin America is still projected to achieve continued growth, which means more strains on water as more people move to the cities while farms in South America continue to feed more of the world. As a current map of IDB projects demonstrates, water projects are hardly relegated to the dry, arid regions of Chile and Peru: Most are in areas that have been water-rich, but for various regions have not been able to manage supplies efficiently.
Pepsi’s partnership with the IDB is yet another example of how beverage companies have become more engaged with ensuring safe reliable supplies of water in regions in which they are increasing their investment. These firms really have no choice, and have to go beyond making their own internal operations efficient, as Pepsi says it has during 2013. If companies such as Pepsi are going to be able to pitch their soft drinks, snacks and beer in the emerging economies of Latin America, Africa and Asia, they must ensure that they have safe water supplies; and they also have to safeguard water for their potential customers so they can make a decent living. Projects such as Hydro-BID are not just about being a good corporate citizen — they also are a good business practice.
Image credit: Wikipedia