Coca-Cola turns its wastewater into a resource to irrigate the Spanish countryside

The water shortage is on everyone's lips. The level of concern is such that some parts of Spain, such as Catalonia and Tenerife, have declared themselves in a water emergency situation; long before summer arrives. One of the most serious problems caused by water stress is that key sectors of our economy, such as agriculture or food industrydepend on water to carry out much of their activity.

The main solutions to this situation are divided into three axes: protecting available water resources, optimizing their consumption and taking advantage of new technologies to desalinate or 'recycle' water. Coca-Cola's plan for 2030 is based on all of them, with objectives such as protecting watersheds, reducing water use in its factories, returning to nature the equivalent of what its drinks contain each year and regenerate all the water used by plants production plants located in areas of greatest water stress.

This is already happening at the Coca-Cola plant in Tacoronte, in the north of Tenerife. There, 100% of the wastewater is regenerated and It is intended to irrigate the Spanish countryside from 2022. To this end, they collaborate with the Tenerife Island Water Council, Teidagua and the University of La Laguna in two projects that allow not only the reuse of wastewater from their factory, but also urban waters.

This is achieved through cutting-edge ultrafiltration technology that has been installed in the Valle de Guerra treatment plant and is currently being installed in Punta del Hidalgo, both towns located in the north of the island. The first is the wastewater that results from the Coca-Cola production process. After undergoing a demanding treatment, the liquid allows the risk of an area of ​​350 hectares of tropical farmland, mainly banana trees. There are already 2,000 irrigators who benefit from it.

In the case of Punta del Hidalgo, we are also collaborating on the integration of this technology to facilitate the irrigation of local fields. The station is currently being modernized and, by the end of 2024, it will go from 40% to regenerating 100% of urban water. This will allow the irrigation of 91 hectares and 17 agricultural properties, as well as recover farms that had been abandoned due to lack of water.

These projects are of great relevance for the area, since the agricultural sector is experiencing difficulties due to the limited availability of water. «The water scarcity we are experiencing can only be successfully faced if we join forces from all areas, both in the public and private spheres. At Coca-Cola we are delighted to collaborate on a joint strategy to regenerate high quality water, suitable for irrigating and recovering the cultivation of the area», says Carmen Gómez-Acebo, Director of Sustainability of Coca-Cola Europacific Partners Iberia, in response to the media.

Carmen Gómez-Acebo, Director of Sustainability at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners IberiaCCEP

For its part, the University of La Laguna is carrying out a study to analyze the quality of the regenerated water in the Valle de Guerra treatment plant and its viability for irrigation. According to its preliminary results, presented to the media, The waters exceed the quality requirements set by the regulations. Likewise, they show that no increase in salinity and sodicity of irrigated soils has been detected, nor microbiological problems, which are usually the aspects that most concern the field.

How many liters of water do you need for a Coca-Cola?

This project is one of the 12 initiatives to reuse the water that Coca-Cola has been launched in Spain since 2008. The result? In 2023 alone, 4,896 million liters of water were returned to nature. In addition to giving back to nature, the company has adopted other commitments to water, such as reducing consumption by 20% in 2025 compared to 2010. It is on the right track in Spain: in 2023, it achieved a reduction of 18.5% compared to to 2019.

To give us an idea, the rate of water use needed to make a kilo of rice is 1,500 liters and between 5,000 and 20,000 for a kilo of meat. To produce one liter of Coca-Cola, 1.77 liters of water are needed.: one liter in the beverage consumed and 0.77 in all necessary operations in the plants, such as cleaning refillable glass bottles and other processes.

“Water is our main ingredient, so the commitment within the plants is very demanding,” adds Gómez-Acebo. «In addition, 100% of Coca-Cola plants have protection plans and vulnerability analysis of local water sources, and periodic evaluations are carried out to know the quantity and quality of water available in the surrounding basins. hydrographs where each plant is located,” he says.

In short, «at Coca-Cola we face the challenge of managing water sustainably to preserve not only our own business, but also the environment and ecosystems, as well as the communities in which we operate. It is a commitment that Coca-Cola assumes not only because it is the most important ingredient in our drinks – 99% of a Coca-Cola is water – but also because of our firm commitment to people, communities and the planet.