Water resilience on the Danube
28 May 2024

The Danube River, Europe’s second largest river basin and the most international in the world, plays an essential role in the safety and wellbeing of European communities.

Linking ten countries along 2,857 km, the Danube sustains countless human and natural habitats, providing flood protection, drinking water and recreation. Approximately 83 million people live in the Danube basin, and more than 20 million depend directly on the Danube for their drinking water. No wonder it is considered by many to be the lifeline of Europe.

However, an estimated 80 percent of the floodplains and wetlands along the river have disappeared over the past 150 years. With them have gone significant populations of fish and other ecosystem goods and services that strengthen the resilience of people and nature in the face of climate change.

Since 2014, The Living Danube Partnership has been a unique cross-sectoral initiative that brought together the World Wide Fund in Nature Central and Eastern Europe (WWF-CEE), The Coca-Cola Foundation and the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River to promote the conservation and restoration of vital wetlands and floodplains. With financial support from The Coca-Cola Foundation, the partnership has supported more than nine restoration projects across six countries, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Romania and Serbia.

To achieve restoration goals in the Danube region, the partnership works with local stakeholders, municipalities and landowners to connect river stretches and floodplains to the river system by opening dams, installing sluices for water retention and improving water supply channels. At the same time, the initiative creates a regional movement for wetland conservation and restoration while promoting good water stewardship.

According to the WWF, following 2021, when the first phase of the Living Danube Partnership (2014-2021) was concluded, approximately 5,462 hectares of vital wetlands, rivers and floodplains were restored with the support of The Coca-Cola Foundation, while additional funding was leveraged through the EU and state funds, creating the opportunity to replenish yearly approximately 13.45 million additional m3 of water. The Living Danube partnership restoration projects also have multiple co-benefits, including improved water quality, carbon sequestration and increased climate resilience, as well as positive impacts on community wellbeing.

For these efforts, the initiative received the 2020 Partnership of the Year Award in the Reuters Responsible Business Awards 2021.

Recently, WWF-CEE and The Coca-Cola Foundation announced the extension of the partnership. The extension will focus on projects across six countries, namely Bulgaria, Czechia, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine, building on the water resilience work done in many of these countries during the first phase of the partnership.

Additionally, Coca-Cola in Europe and its bottling partner Coca-Cola HBC will also join the initiative. They will support activities focused on demonstrating water stewardship and engaging businesses for collective action.

Through partnerships like these, companies and nonprofit organisations are better equipped to safeguard the supply of water in the Danube basin, stop and reverse the decline in biodiversity and tackle climate change.

As summed up by Wouter Vermeulen, Vice President for Sustainability and Public Policy in Europe for The Coca-Cola Company:

‘Water stewardship is a priority for The Coca-Cola Company because water is essential to life, the communities we operate in and to our business. The world is experiencing increased water scarcity with demands for safe, usable water exceeding supply in certain areas. With operations nearly everywhere in the world, we have a responsibility to accelerate our efforts to help address water stress, protect local and shared water resources and help build community climate resilience.’

More information:

The Green Way
Water resilience
Story contributor
The Coca-Cola Company
@The Coca-Cola Company
Key numbers
hectares of vital wetlands, rivers and floodplains restored between 2014 and 2021