PepsiCo Beverages North America (PBNA) recently announced a commitment of funds to the Salt River Project (SRP) Resilient Water and Forest Restoration Project in the Verde River watershed, one of Arizona’s most important waterways. The project focuses on restoring forest structure, composition, and function in a 1,450-acre area of the watershed that supplies water to the Phoenix metropolitan area. Many parts of the watershed are at high risk of wildfire, the occurrence of which would harm SRP’s ability to provide resilient water to the Phoenix community. Other partners on the project include the U.S. Forest Service, Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management, Arizona Sportsman for Wildlife Conservation, and Conservation First USA. PBNA has committed $250,000 to the project.
“We are thankful to PepsiCo Beverages for their investment in our restoration project,” said Elvy Barton, Water and Forest Sustainability Manager of Salt River Project. “Through this partnership, we’ll see an increase in our local ecosystem’s water supply, overall helping make water supplies to the Phoenix metropolitan area more resilient.”
The project area encompasses the burn scar from the 1990 Dude Fire, a high-severity wildfire that occurred near Payson, Arizona, which led to the widespread destruction of forests in the Verde River watershed. In many areas that were burned, land that was previously forest has since been repopulated by an overabundance of small shrubs and trees. These trees and shrubs contribute to unhealthy watershed conditions and their water usage reduces water supplies to the Verde River ecosystem. The project area is at great risk for another high-severity wildfire that would have devastating effects on water infrastructure and could impair SRP’s ability to provide reliable water supplies to downstream communities.
Restoration of these areas aims to help prevent another devastating wildfire in headwater areas by decreasing tree and undergrowth density and by removing fuels from the project area. These efforts intend to also reduce evapotranspiration from the Verde River basin, increasing the volume of water that is available for local ecosystems and communities downstream.
Restoring parts of the Verde River watershed presents an opportunity to repair the damage that has already been caused and to improve watershed function to enhance SRP’s ability to provide resilient water supplies for the Phoenix metropolitan area.
Additionally, the restoration of these forests aims to enhance wildlife habitat, preserve recreational assets, protect communities and infrastructure, and prevent devastating post-wildfire flooding.
These restoration efforts help to drive progress towards PepsiCo’s ambitious pep+ (PepsiCo Positive) 2030 Net Water Positive vision, which includes reducing absolute water use and replenishing back into the local watershed more than 100% of the water used in high water-risk areas.
PepsiCo’s industry-leading water sustainability efforts were recognized earlier this year with the 2023 Industrial Water Reuse Champions Award by WateReuse Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Veolia, and the University of Pennsylvania Water Center for its best-in-class water recycling and reuse programs inside and outside its plants. The award is recognition of PepsiCo’s progress to achieve its ambitious water sustainability goals, including best-in-class water-use efficiency in 100% of PepsiCo and third-party high water-risk manufacturing sites by 2030, and world-class water-use efficiency in all other manufacturing sites by 2030.
To learn more about PepsiCo pep+ sustainability transformation, visit www.pepsico.com/pepsicopositive