PepsiCo backs new tool to predict water risks

PepsiCo backs new tool to predict water risks

Argentina reservoir by Gabi Lambertas, Flickr

Global food and beverage companies from Anheuser-Busch InBev to Coca-Cola to Molson Coors have all created tools to measure and slake their thirst for water.

But a new modeling tool created by the Inter-American Development Bank and funded by PepsiCo addresses a more systemic challenge: helping communities and companies better understand how proposed policies or plans could affect freshwater supplies.

Called Hydro-BID (PDF), the system lets planners generate water availability projections based on fluctuating climate, population and land use scenarios. Initially focused on Latin America and the Caribbean, it already has been used in pilots in Argentina, Brazil, Haiti and Peru. Its mission is to guide infrastructure projects in sanitation, transportation, energy and irrigation.

"Contrary to popular belief, floods and droughts are foreseeable phenomena that governments and communities can prepare for," said Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm, an IDB hydrologist and water resource engineer. "Not only will Hydro-BID help communities prepare for natural disasters, it will also help public utility and water managers get a better handle on water planning and budgets."

What makes this tool different from other great water data visualization resources, such as Aqueduct from the World Resources Institute, is its focus on supporting "what-if" assessments over time, based on varying inputs. Right now, Hydro-BID covers more than 230,000 catchments, along with rainfall and temperature information, and runoff models. Analysts can visualize scenarios over time to gauge changes in flow rates or reservoir levels. It's an open source project, meaning that IDB hopes the technology could eventually be applied to other regions.

Part of the funding behind Hydro-BID comes from PepsiCo's $5 million grant to the IDB AquaFund, the first such private-sector contribution to the initiative. Next steps for the technology include deeper pilot projects in Brazil and Peru.

Latin America has been a big focus for PepsiCo's water stewardship efforts: it already has improved its water efficiency by 20 percent against its 2006 baseline, that amounted to 14 billion liters in water savings during 2012 alone.

Like other companies, it is busily deploying technologies that could have an even bigger impact — and that could show up elsewhere. In Colombia, for example, PepsiCo reuses 75 percent of the water entering its food facility; it conserves at least 90 million liters with high-efficiency water reclamation systems alone.

Learn more about next-generation water management and hear from Dan Bena, PepsiCo's senior director of sustainable development, at VERGE SF 2014, Oct. 27 to 30Top image of reservoir in Sierras de Cordoba, Argentina, by Gabi Lamberti via Flickr