The scarcity of water availability is one of the threats that looms over parts of Indonesia. The islands of Java, Bali, and Nusa Tenggara are three regions with the highest water scarcity. Areas with water scarcity are estimated to expand from 6.0% in 2000 to 9.6% in 2045, in terms of proportion. Additionally, water quality has also degraded significantly (LIPI, 2019).

Due to increasing complex water problems, National Geographic Indonesia and #SayaPilihBumi collaborated with Coca-Cola Foundation Indonesia in organizing a webinar on #BerbagiCerita program titled “Efforts to Breed and Preserve Water.”

The webinar, which was held on Friday (11/12/2020) through the Zoom platform, discussed further about water problems and proposed solutions to these problems. Moderated by Didi Kaspi Kasim, Editor in Chief of National Geographic Indonesia, the discussion also invited four highly-qualified sources to talk about water resources.

The speakers were (1) Prof. Ir. Muhammad Syahril Badri Kusuma, Ph.D., a professor of Water Resources Engineering at the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB); (2) Dr. Sci Rachmat Fajar L., a researcher on hydrogeology at the Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI); (3) Ir. Asep Atju Surahmat M, a senior raw water specialist at USAID IUWASH Plus Project; and (4) Triyono Prijosoesilo, a deputy chief executive of Coca-Cola Foundation Indonesia.

Water Utilization Crisis

These speakers identified various issues regarding water crisis. As an example, Prof. Badri from ITB highlighted the problem in river capacity as river is one of the most widely used water sources. Uncontrolled human consumption pattern has created conflict of interests and an imbalance between flood management and human needs, especially in big cities, despite various regulations from the government and world organizations on water preservation. He said the use of river must be balanced between the needs of human, plants, and animals. The utilization of river that is not in line with its capacity could lead to harmful floods.

Dr. Fajar from LIPI also shared the same concerns as Prof. Badri as he underlined the emergence of disasters due to uncontrolled use of water. During the discussion, Dr. Fajar specifically highlighted groundwater as one of the most exploited water sources. The proportion of ground water extraction reaches 46% of water needs. In his presentation, Dr. Fajar mentioned that uncontrollable use of groundwater could potentially cause irreversible degradation, such as groundwater pollution, sea water intrusion, land subsidence, and other impacts.

Asep from USAID also talked about water crisis, emphasizing more on the role of climate change and land conversion. Climate change will make dry seasons longer and direct land conversion has reduced water catchment area. Both factors have caused degradation in water discharge and reduced water resources quality, which in turn would lead to water crisis.

Preserving Water Resources

As a basic human need, water crisis must be resolved immediately. River restoration is one of the solutions in preserving water sources as proposed by Prof. Badri during the discussion. The restoration program is doable and can measure river capacity realistically and precisely so that it can be utilized optimally. Prof. Badri emphasized the importance of cooperation between all stakeholders (the government, local communities, non-governmental organizations, private sector, and academics) in river restoration.

In line with Prof. Badri, Dr. Fajar also emphasized the importance of local communities’ involvement in water management education. Appropriate technology must be accompanied with education to the public as the spearhead of water utilization, in order to make it more sustainable.

One of the applicable solutions is the construction of infiltration wells that have been campaigned by USAID for a long time through the IUWASH Plus Project. Asep said that infiltration wells are easy and inexpensive technology, but quite effective and efficient in tackling water crisis. Infiltration wells program has succeeded in increasing water discharge by 30% within 1-2 years. The program, which is implemented by the USAID IUWASH Plus Project, has received support from Coca-Cola, which has a strong commitment to water preservation.

Other than building infiltration wells with USAID, Coca-Cola has carried out many other things in its efforts to preserve water. In the presentation delivered by Mr. Triyono as a representative of the Coca-Cola Foundation, it is known that Coca-Cola has a strong vision in water breeding and preservation. The vision is embodied in a water replenishment project through four pillars of framework.

The first one is Plant Performance where each factory’s key performance indicators will be measured, such as water-used ratio, which is a method used to measure water usage. The less use of water to produce 1 liter of water, the better. The second one is Watershed Protection, which is important to maintain hydrology cycle by keeping groundwater sources. The third one is Sustainable Communities because clean water access for the community is an integral part in water management. The fourth one is Global Awareness and Action to improve communities’ awareness on water use.

The water replenishment project is carried out through three types of project activities, namely the construction of infiltration wells in 7 locations in Java and Sumatra. Next is the construction of water reservoir in 7 locations in Java and West Nusa Tenggara. Lastly, the improvement in water access and sanitation by collaborating with local water companies through piping activities.

Since 2014, Coca-Cola’s water breeding and preservation program has shown significant results with more than 100% of used water can be returned to nature or the local communities. In 2019, it has reached 141%. Efforts by Coca-Cola also showed that a strong commitment of the private sector will have direct contribution in solving water crisis in Indonesia.