AUSTIN — Clean water is life. It is critical to human health, a balanced environment, and, as it turns out, great tasting beer. That’s why the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and MillerCoors―the U.S. division of Molson Coors―came together to improve the health of the Trinity River in Texas. This river is a vital eco-system that provides water to businesses like MillerCoors, and millions of residents and thousands of wildlife species. But restoring a watershed is no simple task.
Ahead of the United Nations General Assembly 2019, the Worldwide Brewing Alliance brought beer industry leaders, government agencies and environmental groups together to discuss the challenges and best practices of working together to protect vital natural resources. Matthew Lohr, Chief of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Kim Marotta, Senior Director of Global Sustainability for Molson Coors presented their successful Trinity River partnership to other governments and it did not take long for an overwhelming theme to emerge: working together is essential, both for the future of the beer industry and the future of our planet’s resources.
Natural resources, like water, are finite; and when it comes to conserving and protecting America’s resources, businesses, government agencies, nonprofits, scientists, and citizens must work together to achieve the best results with the biggest impact. It cannot be the effort of a single entity. Whether it is about homes, farms or businesses in any of the thousands of watersheds across America, water is cleaner, and gains increase when more stakeholders are involved. The NRCS, MillerCoors and Texas farmers and ranchers have been working hand-in-hand in the Trinity River basin to improve the water supply for more than 45 percent of state users. Together, since 2012, this partnership has restored more than six billion gallons of water to the Trinity River!
Many of the nation’s waterways suffer from high levels of nutrients and sediment that impair the quality of water, both for people and wildlife. The NRCS focuses its conservation resources in these watersheds, where farmers can make a difference, and where there is a stream or river in need. Through the National Water Quality Initiative, the agency has worked with more than 3,650 producers to adopt conservation practices on more than 825,000 acres in priority watersheds.
The strength of this initiative comes from a targeted approach. In the case of the Trinity River, they honed their efforts on Chambers Creek―a sub-watershed of the Trinity River where MillerCoors’ Fort Worth Brewery sources its primary ingredient―water.
In 2012, MillerCoors began partnering with the NRCS in Texas, local soil and water conservation districts and other state and local stakeholders to establish the “Restore Project.” Through this program, they were able to provide $8.3 million in collective funding assistance to landowners who implemented conservation practices such as cover crops, forage and biomass planting, brush management, residue and tillage management, and other practices that benefit the water, soil, plant and wildlife resources on their land and downstream.
It takes healthy ecosystems to produce quality food and fiber from our agricultural lands, and we know that water quality is directly related to the health of the land. That is why these kinds of holistic, multi-faceted partnerships are crucial to the future of our planet’s water.
Partnership projects, such as the National Water Quality Initiative project with MillerCoors in Texas, supports positive environmental change for the future of water in America. The combined leveraging of federal, state, local and private resources maximize the impact of implementing conservation that will have a positive benefit to not only water quality, but the environment as a whole. We think this should serve as a great template for future collaborations in water conservation because public-private partnerships can deliver strong positive results and a win-win for all involved.
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