Why We’re Joining the AgWater Challenge

Ag water challenge logos on a picture of a strawberry field
Did you know it’s World Food Day? Since water is crucial to feeding the world, we thought today was the perfect day to announce our participation in the Ceres/World Wildlife Fund (WWF) AgWater Challenge. We’re joining a cohort of other companies like Danone and Target to address a global water crisis that puts our freshwater supply at risk.  In collaboration with Ceres and WWF, we’ve set time-bound commitments to reduce our impact and collaborate with others to protect one of our most precious resources.  

Over the course of 100 years, Driscoll’s has evolved into a global berry company growing and selling their berries to families around the world. Our success is shared with thousands of individuals – independent growers, harvesters, grocers, and others. The power of these people coming together produces opportunities for livelihood and creates one interwoven family that is greater than the sum of its parts.  To continue to deliver the finest berries, we need to ensure the health of the communities and the environment we all depend on. One of the most crucial resources is water. Specifically, an abundant supply of groundwater is vital to our communities and our business. The world’s supply is finite, but the agricultural industry hasn’t always treated it that way. Due to a lack of regulation and collaborative solutions to preserve groundwater among other factors, we are at risk of losing access to this precious resource. 

For a long time, Driscoll’s has recognized the importance of water and the need to manage it collaboratively, community-by-community.  Our CEO, Miles Reiter, was one of the earliest supporters of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) which mandates aquifer balance in California, meaning that pumped groundwater doesn’t exceed the amount of water that is replenished. Even before SGMA was signed into law, Driscoll’s coordinated a community-led forum called the Pajaro Valley Community Dialogue, which led to the establishment of a wireless irrigation network that has greatly reduced the amount of water needed in the fields. 

We’re proud of the work we’ve done thus far, but we need to take our action even further. We’re excited to leverage the expertise of Ceres and WWF and collaborate with other companies to find comprehensive solutions to water scarcity and pollution issues.  Our industry must hold itself to a higher standard by outlining specific activities that will address these issues head on and help ensure a sustainable water future for all.  

Our Commitments:

Driscoll’s is committed to developing a water policy and framework by the end of 2020 which will be reviewed by external stakeholders and embedded into supply planning and operational functions in all applicable districts in 2021.  This policy will state our approach to regional risk assessment, public policy engagement, roles and responsibilities, critical issues and responses, and internal targets and goals.  There will be public visibility to key aspects of this policy for consumers and customers.

Collaborate at the watershed level to protect resources in high-risk areas
Driscoll’s will continue to take a leadership role in high-risk growing areas to engage stakeholders and find community-based solutions that will protect water resources for all.  This includes participating in the development of legislation, taking a leadership role in community planning at the watershed level, and engaging in stakeholder activities that ensure that high quality water is accessible, affordable and reliable to all members of the community where we operate and source.  Anticipated activities will include convening stakeholders, engaging technical experts, and seed funding studies and projects.   Driscoll’s will convene company peers in California regions (e.g. buyers, producers) to share learnings from California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act implementation and develop a common voice of support around the successful implementation of Groundwater Sustainability Plans.  

Assess water risks in key agricultural sourcing regions
All existing and new growing regions in the Americas will be assessed against credible water risk and landscape assessment tools on an ongoing basis. These risk assessments will be integrated as part of a standardized process into the company’s fruit supply planning process at both the region and business unit levels by end of 2021.  

To allow Driscoll’s to properly contextualize the regional impacts of berry production as well as adjust resources, activities, and growth planning, we will produce a crop water demand report (measured as volume per surface area) for all designated high and moderate-risk growing regions and a basin enterprise water footprint (the crop and facility demand relative to total extractions and basin safe yield).

Set time-bound goals to reduce water impacts of key crops
By end of 2020, each high-risk sourcing region will identify key water impacts and set new goals to reduce them.  Examples of potential action include adoption of irrigation efficiency technology, incorporation of recycled water, elimination of non-storm tail-water, incorporation of brine discharge best management practices (BMPs), and increased use of irrigation scheduling technology. By 2025, we seek to have all ranches/farms adopt relevant BMPs to measurably reduce crop impact on local water resource sustainability.

Support farmers to steward water resources 
Driscoll’s is committed to invest in the development, validation, and adoption of new technology and new growing practices.  The goal is to support and train internal teams and grower partners in best management practices aimed at improving regional water quality, access and sustainability, which will support future growth.  Key customers with water stewardship commitments will be engaged to identify potential for collaboration to incentivize growers.  By end of 2020, training will reach every grower and functionally relevant employee in our highest-risk sourcing region. Additional training and resources will be provided to growers who wish to engage in water management planning at the community level.