U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Coca-Cola North America President Sandy Douglas recently announced that their partnership to restore and protect damaged watersheds within national forest lands achieved a milestone of one billion liters of water restored, and that the partnership will commit to double that outcome through 2018.
The 13 restoration areas are located within U.S. national forest land, the source of drinking water for more than 60 million Americans, and they can help ensure that future generations living nearby will have access to fresh water.
"This milestone that Coca-Cola, USDA and our partners have reached is just the latest example of how partnerships between the public and private sectors can reach more people, harness more innovation, and do more good than either government or businesses can achieve alone," said Vilsack.
"America's 193 million acres of public forests and grasslands supply the drinking water for 60 million Americans, support approximately 200,000 full and part time jobs and contribute over $13 billion to local communities each year."
This public-private sector partnership includes community organizations and taps their collective expertise to address increasing stress on water resources during challenging budget times. Dozens of local communities and hundreds of volunteers and youth worked together on water resource management education and stewardship activities.
The Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico is an example of the public-private partnerships approach. Local partners worked together to help restore an alpine meadow and enhanced a natural wetland habitat. By slowing the flow of Placer Creek, a tributary of the Rio Grande, the local team helped to restore a biodiverse meadow habitat and replenish the groundwater that contributes to the City of Santa Fe, New Mexico's water supply. The meadow restoration project is expected to help replenish approximately 49 million liters of water per year.
"One of the primary purposes of the 1897 Act that established our National Forests, was to ensure the long-term supply of water for our country"
U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said. "More than 100 years later, the stewardship of these public lands for forest and watershed health continues to be essential in ensuring an adequate water supply and providing high-quality water for needs across the United States."