PepsiCo Foundation announces major new grant to the Earth Institute at Columbia University to promote global water sustainability


January 22 – Projects designed to address the emerging challenges of global water scarcity received a $6 million boost today with the announcement of a new grant from the PepsiCo Foundation to the Earth Institute at Columbia University. Targeted solutions towards more efficient water use and sustainable supply development will be explored in critical settings in India, Brazil, China and several countries in Africa. The grant demonstrates how private companies can work with academic institutions to practice sustainable development and help achieve the Millennium Development Goals -- eight globally endorsed targets that seek to help the world's poor including halving the number of people living in extreme poverty by 2015.

"Water is at the core of economic development and human well being," said Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute. "With water there can be productive agriculture, good nutrition, sanitation, and health. Without water there is only poverty and disease. Yet water is under unprecedented stress, from inadequate farm practices, climate change, population pressures, and pollution.  New technologies, new business strategies, and new public policies can overcome the growing water crisis.  Our new project and partnership will help to develop and demonstrate the best options for future years in the Americas, Africa, and Asia."

Under the leadership of Upmanu Lall, Alan & Carol Silberstein Professor of Engineering at Columbia University, the grant will support projects that will test novel methods of managing water to address the looming water scarcity crises worldwide. Professor Lall and the newly-founded Columbia Water Center will explore interdisciplinary approaches that could help public-private partnerships foster improved water sustenance considering local and global water supply and use factors at sites in four countries.  The goal is to demonstrate that an integrated approach to improving rural livelihoods, climate risk management and improved access to water for agriculture and human consumption can be achieved through technical and economic innovation, appropriate for each setting. Sites will be selected with input from host country partners, the Columbia Water Center research team, the PepsiCo Foundation, and collaborators from other leading Universities.

“Parched fields and intermittent municipal water supplies are now a recurrent scene in many parts of the world.  These problems will get worse as increasing populations and variable climate contribute to water stress everywhere,” said Upmanu Lall. “Investment and technical input into water resource development have lagged, and it is high time that we bring our knowledge of climate prediction, remote sensing, hydrology, market economics, and agricultural technologies together to innovate new business models for reliable local water supplies and responsible global water use. The four countries we have identified for initial focus represent extraordinary challenges and also opportunities for demonstrating how the situation can be improved through investment in new sources as well as in water use efficiency. Novel mechanisms and incentives provided by the public and the private sector can target the large number of agricultural users who consume most of the water and do not normally have either the information or the capital to significantly change the water situation. Improving water reliability and agricultural income will in turn improve the livelihood of these users, promoting sustainability. We hope to develop and demonstrate such solutions in collaboration with many partners from other Universities and from public and private agencies in the targeted countries.”

"For the PepsiCo Foundation, these commitments begin with a desire to reverse the worldwide water crisis," said Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo chairman and chief executive officer and PepsiCo Foundation chairman. "Water sits at the nexus of so many challenges -- global health through disease transmission, increasing hunger through poor agricultural practices, and even education as children in water-scarce economies are often charged with walking miles to collect water from a distant well instead of attending school. Without clean water, none of the other fundamentals leading to a healthy and prosperous life are possible.”

The focus of the projects will be tailored to the specific needs of each region: 

India: Develop research, tools, and strategies to support improved irrigation water use, focusing on contract farming and private sector partnerships.

China: Develop agricultural/irrigation innovations in drought-prone areas of the northwest and watershed management in cooperation with national and regional government ministries.

Mali: Apply novel irrigation methods, pumps & water saving technologies, targeted for Millennium Village sites where new methods can be leveraged with other development projects underway.

Brazil:  Reduce impact  of drought in northeast Brazil through low-cost irrigation and conservation tools, better flow forecasting, and financial strategies to support these programs through municipal and industrial investments.

"The world's governments have identified access to clean water as one of the key building blocks to ending global poverty. Without it, none of the Millennium Goals will be met," added Nooyi. "We believe that the world water crisis is one of the most pressing challenges of our age. As a global food and beverage company, our success depends on being responsible stewards of this limited resource."

The Earth Institute at Columbia University is an interdisciplinary research institute that brings together talent from throughout the university to address complex issues facing the planet and its inhabitants, with particular focus on sustainable development and the needs of the worlds' poor.  Under the direction of Professor Jeffrey Sachs, the Earth Institute supports pioneering projects in the biological, engineering, social, and health sciences, while actively encouraging interdisciplinary projects, often combining natural and social sciences, in pursuit of solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.

PepsiCo Foundation:  PepsiCo Foundation is the charitable anchor of the company's broader Performance with Purpose strategy for sustainable development and corporate citizenship.  Given rapidly escalating changes in the environment, such as water scarcity and insecurity, and climate changes, the Foundation seeks to help people find ways to better manage resources within their communities. The Foundation strives to positively impact local economic vitality by encouraging community insights and actions that better manage water and environmental resources at the community level, specifically those that increase water security through active harvesting and watershed resource management.   In several of the most drought stricken regions in the world, the Foundation has pledged to bring one million people safe drinking water by 2010.   PepsiCo Foundation, along with PepsiCo's operating divisions, give grants to more than 1,000 community organizations.