CA Craft Brewers Leading in Water Conservation Efforts
California is no stranger to drought conditions, but this year’s drought season has been more intense than most and the government is being forced to levy water conservation mandates in many areas. These water conservation guidelines are not just affecting residents, businesses have to evaluate their use as well, and not many businesses rely on water as much as breweries.
The U.S. industry average in the U.S. for producing one gallon of beer (almost enough for a 12 pack) is a whopping seven gallons of water! This usage factors in every input that goes into the making of beer, including water used as an ingredient, for cleaning and everything in-between.
Breweries in California are under a lot of pressure right now given how serious the drought conditions have become, and breweries like Sierra Nevada and Bear Republic are pioneering innovative ways to cut down their water use and help the industry as a whole find cost effective solutions.
Sierra Nevada’s original Chico brewery, one of the largest craft breweries in the country, uses an absolutely tremendous amount of their water. Their sustainability efforts has been focused on streamlining every process around the brewery to reduce and monitor water use.
They’ve installed flow meters throughout their brewery both to better track where their water is being used and to be able to track down any leaks faster. They’ve installed systems to recover water used in production, made their cleaning systems as efficient as possible, and made the change from water based to dry lubricants on their machinery.
Their analysis of water usage didn’t stop at just their brewing process though. Sierra Nevada redesigned their landscaping around the brewery to feature drought resistant plans and decorative rock along with implementing a drip irrigation system that uses half the amount of water as their old system. Through tuning all of their systems around the brewery with water conservation in mind, they’ve been able to cut the amount of water they use to produce a barrel of beer by more than 25 percent in the last few years, and they’re continuing to look for other ways to cut their consumption.
Bear Republic in Cloverdale is no stranger to water shortages. In 2013, their region could not provide them with enough water to keep up with their demand. They were losing money every day and were forced to pull back their distribution in order to keep up in their established markets.
Bear Republic then signed a historic deal with the City of Cloverdale to pay in advance for the water they would be using that year if the money went toward building new wells for the city so that they could provide the area with more water.
Because of this legacy, water conservation is a huge priority at Bear Republic and they take it very seriously. They are using the world’s first on-site bioelectrically enhanced wastewater pretreatment plants to get all that they can out of their water use. This plant’s process not only allows them to re-use 25 percent of their water for cleaning purposes, but also produces high quality methane to be used for about 25 percent of their water heating and enough electricity to meet half of their brewery’s total requirement. Through these innovations, they are one of the most water efficient breweries in the country, using only 3.5 gallons of water to produce each gallon of beer, half of the national average.
Sierra Nevada and Bear Republic are not the only breweries working hard to squeeze the most out of every last drop of water, but they are perfect examples of the sustainability initiatives going on throughout the entire craft beer industry.