Brewery Practices To Reduce Water Consumption

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    Contents

    Guide Author

    James Longley

    Managing Director

    min read
    Last Updated February 29, 2024

    There’s been increasing pressure on the beer industry to reduce water consumption during the brewing process.

    With the brewing industry facing growing scrutiny over its environmental impact, forward-thinking breweries are adopting sustainable practices to combat water scarcity and gain favour with eco-conscious consumers.

    In this article, we’ll dive into the world of brewery water consumption and cover everything from the water footprint of beer and water-saving technologies for operational efficiency to the importance of water conservation in breweries.

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    Why Breweries Need to Conserve Water

    Beyond crafting delicious brews, breweries face a growing responsibility to conserve water. Several regions in the UK – like London and the West Midlands – already have water scarcity problems and are set to experience water stress by 2030.

    Here’s why water footprint reduction in breweries is crucial:

    Environmental impact

    A substantial amount of water goes into making one pint of beer, from soaking malted grains and filtration to cleaning up – for both commercial and craft breweries alike. This makes the industry a significant contributor to global water consumption.

    Traditionally, breweries used between six and eight litres during beer production. This translates to a higher environmental impact, especially considering the global water scarcity crisis.

    Here’s a break down on the water-intensive stages of brewing:

    • Mashing: Hot water extracts sugars and flavours from malted grains, which is a process that requires multiple rinses.
    • Lautering: A process separating liquid wort (mash) from spent grains.
    • Cooling: Wort needs rapid cooling to prevent unwanted aromas and flavours, typically achieved with large volumes of water.
    • Cleaning and washing: Maintaining hygiene across tanks, equipment, and bottling conveyors consumes large amounts of water.

    In water-scarce regions, competition for resources between beer production and communities can impact the accessibility to clean water. Droughts and climate change further heighten water stress, making conservation essential.

    Economic pressure

    Water tariffs are steadily rising and reducing water consumption is critical for brewery profitability.

    Breweries implementing water-saving techniques can significantly reap financial gain; as lower consumption levels directly result in operational cost savings.

    Exceeding water usage regulations can lead to hefty fines, further eating into a company’s profits.

    Fact: In the 70s, breweries used about seven litres of water to make one litre of beer, as opposed to an average of 2.82 litres today.

    Consumer shift

    Embracing water conservation methods resonates with environmentally conscious consumers. This enhances a brewery’s brand image and fosters long-term company loyalty. By showcasing water-saving initiatives, breweries build trust and positive perceptions.

    These concerns are driving a crucial shift, with breweries recognising the need for sustainable water management. This not only impacts the environment but also their own economic, financial and brand well-being.

    Innovative Solutions for Water-Efficient Brewing

    Here’s a glimpse into innovative solutions for water conservation in breweries:

    Technology advancements

    • Membrane filtration offers advanced water purification.
    • Low-flow equipment reduces water usage during cleaning.
    • Adopt innovative water purification/recycling methods like reverse osmosis.
    • Vacuum cooling systems use steam condensation to cool wort (mash). This significantly reduces water consumption and lowers water bills.

    Take Twisted Oak Brewery in North Somerset, for example. They collect hot water from the plate heat exchanger and recycle it for the next brew. They also collect rainwater to rinse and wash dirty cask barrels. Implementing this type of water supply system significantly reduces their consumption and energy bills.

    Additionally, The Brewers’ Research and Education Fund (BREF) provides funding for the brewing industry that supports scientific research and education. This includes projects that promote environmental and economic sustainability.

    While the initial water-saving investment costs can be expensive, you can’t put a price tag on sustainability and long-term operational efficiency.

    Process optimisation

    To yield significant waste savings without compromising quality, breweries could:

    • Optimise operational procedures
    • Explore dry hopping techniques as opposed to traditional methods
    • Minimise clean water used during rinsing by implementing recycling systems
    • Using automated water monitoring systems
    • Train employees to implement water-saving methods into daily routines

    Collaboration between breweries

    To yield cost savings and environmental benefits, consider:

    • Sharing water-saving best practices through industry forums and knowledge-sharing platforms.
    • Consider joint initiatives like collective wastewater treatment facilities or water-efficient equipment.

    Industry associations and research institutions, such as Campden BRI, play a vital role in developing and promoting sustainable solutions. By joining forces, breweries can collectively push the boundaries of water efficiency, ensuring a sustainable future for the industry and the planet.

    The Benefits of Water-Conscious Brewing

    Brewing responsibly unlocks many benefits:

    • Reduced impact on the environment: By implementing water-saving strategies, breweries shrink their water footprint. This has a positive impact on local water resources and ecosystem health. Every drop saved contributes to broader sustainability goals, mitigates climate change and ensures a healthier planet for future generations.
    • Enhanced brand image and consumer loyalty: Today’s consumers are drawn to sustainable brands. Your water stability commitment strengthens your brand image and connects with like-minded eco-savvy consumers. Consumers are also more willing to pay premium prices when they know sustainable methods have been used (i.e. increased sales).For example, Heineken’s “Brewing A Difference” campaign reduced its water ratio to 3.46:1 in 2018 – two years ahead of its 2020 waste reduction target.
    • Cost savings and improved efficiency: Water conservation is a smart business move that results in lower bills and wastewater treatment costs. These savings offer long-term financial benefits, giving you a competitive edge in the sustainability market and improved resource management.

    Conclusion

    While advancements are impressive, the journey towards water-conscious brewing is ongoing.

    By supporting breweries prioritising sustainability and adopting eco-friendly practices, we can collectively ensure a future where every sip counts, not just for taste, but for the planet.

    See Utility Bidder’s website for more information.

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