Water management

Making a refreshing difference

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The District of Coorg, Karnataka, one of the main coffee-growing regions of India, is the home of Tata Coffee, a subsidiary of Tata Consumer Products.

Tata Coffee Plantations, spread across 12,800 hectares, are located along the Western Ghats, with 19 coffee estates, of which 13 are in Coorg. Just the right amount of rainfall, at the right time, is important for the health of these crops. Natural blossom showers are critical during the months of February and March. However, rainfall patterns were changing over the last 2 decades, adversely affecting the coffee bean output. Therein began Tata Coffee’s journey to harvest water!

As a plantation worker, adequate and timely rainfall defines the survival of our crops, and, in essence, my livelihood. I have been working at Tata Coffee’s Polibetta Estate for over 2 decades. Over this period the rainfall pattern has changed significantly. This worried me, as it threatened my income and the future of our families. But the Company was farsighted and took many steps to ensure that today not just our crops, but my livelihood and that of my family’s is no longer dependent on when and how much it rains. It gives me peace of mind

Antoo Michael, Woshully Estate, Coorg, Second Generation Plantation Worker

At the beginning of 2013, Tata Consumer Products signed a partnership agreement with IDH, an organisation funded by the Dutch Government, which supports the sustainable development of smallholder farmers by building impact-oriented coalitions. Under this partnership, we work with Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP) to implement certification activities across Kenya, Malawi and Uganda. The partnership has significantly enhanced ETP’s management and training roles.

Conserving what nature provides

A scientific process was instated to identify the best areas to build water catchments. The team identified the catchment areas through a GPS survey and built large storage reservoirs of up to 110 hectares. The excess run-off rain water is channelled through gravity into 227 artificial open tanks that are created in the catchment areas, with a capacity to store 583 million gallons of water. The paths leading to the reservoirs are well-vegetated to avoid soil erosion and silt accumulation. This water harvesting project helps Tata Coffee plantations to meet 95% of their water requirement, while recharging groundwater aquifers, helping the entire region to conserve water.

The right amount of water at the right time

In addition to water harvesting, Tata Coffee also focusses on optimum irrigation. The timing and quantum of irrigation is based on the scientific observation to ensure healthy coffee blossom and fruit. Leveraging technology again, GPS coordinates have been utilised to lay the mainline irrigation pipes.

Using new technology to save water

Wet processing of coffee (75% of coffee produced) requires water for washing beans. Putting in place technologies that help reduce the amount of water used, Tata Coffee implemented a Columbian processing technology (Penagos) in 4 of its large coffee estates from 2010.

Penagos consumes only about 700 ml per kg of Arabica Coffee, while providing a higher output. This technology helps to reduce water usage by 82%. In many of its factories, Tata Coffee has activated reverse osmosis to effectively reuse water. Effluent water generated is stored and reused after treatment, reducing the water footprint by about 250 million gallons per annum.

Effective water supply

Tata Coffee also ensures that the supply of potable water to its residential workforce population of close to 10,000 people is sustainable. Potable water from tube wells and open wells is supplied through an overhead reservoir. The Tata Coffee team has ensured that no pesticide or inorganic fertilisers are used in the zones around the river and streams flowing through the estate. As an added measure, surface water analysis is carried out regularly to ensure the quality of water entering and flowing out of the plantations is maintained. Water is precious, and Tata Coffee completely recognises this fact by making use of the land and water in the vicinity in the most judicious manner to tide over its water requirement and prevent soil erosion.