We face a global water crisis. Rapid economic development combined with exponential population growth over the past century are increasing demands on water resources, while environmental degradation threatens water supplies. As a result, water scarcity has risen to the top of the list of global, social and economic risks. Poor people are disproportionately affected by water scarcity, which has already emerged as a source of conflict in coffee-growing regions around the world.
The way coffee is produced and processed can either be part of the solution—or part of the problem—to the water crisis.
How does coffee production and processing contribute to the water crisis? Deforestation to expand land devoted to coffee farming degrades natural resources, reduces biodiversity, and accelerates climate change. Full-sun farming and poor soil management practices reduce soil moisture, slow the recharge of aquifers, and accelerate erosion, runoff and flooding, all of which increases the sedimentation of surface waters. Excessive and inappropriate use of agrochemicals on farms contaminate water resources on which downstream communities depend. Inefficient water use in most wet mills diverts large volumes of water from streams and then returns wastewater – usually untreated – into streams, rivers, and lakes.
A white paper titled “A Blueprint for Water Security in the Coffeelands”, developed by members of the Sustainability Council of the heritage Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) in 2016, with the support of allied non-profit organizations, focuses on improving water security in countries where specialty coffee is grown and is designed to support action by those specialty coffee industry stakeholders committed to increasing water security at origin.
The paper frames the global water crisis, defines key terms related to water resources at origin, explores the connections between coffee production, processing and water stewardship, highlights ongoing efforts by industry leaders for responsible water stewardship, and provides recommendations for action and further research.
Read the white paper now and find out how specialty coffee can be part of the solution to our water problem this #WorldWaterDay.