Beer industry raises a glass towards cutting water consumption

Next time you down a beer, think about this: it took a lot of water to create that brew sitting in front of you.  

According to a 2010 study by the SABMiller brewing company,  the World Wildlife Federation and the German international development agency GIZ, up to 60 to 180 liters of water can be used to produce one liter of beer. Those figures cover the entire process -- from crop cultivation through the brewing process to packaging and, finally, to your thirsty self. The amount of water consumed depends on how it's used along the supply chain.

In recent years, most brewers have been using about a five-to-one water-to-beer ratio to make their beverages. But those figures are evolving rapidly. As water demand soars and supplies become limited, beer makers are rethinking their supply chains and sustainability goals. Two powerhouse companies -- MillerCoors and Heineken -- are focusing the best ways to reduce their respective water footprints. In its newly-released “Great Things on Tap” sustainability report, MillerCoors highlights some of its environmental stewardship and sustainability results. These include:

  • Reducing their water-to-beer ratio to less than 4:1 at five of their eight breweries..
  • Cutting water consumption by 100 million gallons per year at their Milwaukee brewery, through the use of a new cooling system that uses re-circulated water.
  • Saving 124.5 million gallons of water -- while increasing barley yields -- during the first year at its Showcase Barley farm.

For its part, Heineken has selected a new software system to support the company’s “Green Gauge” initiative – to accumulate, analyze and transmit sustainability performance data across their 250 brands and 140 breweries in more than 70 countries.

Photo of beer pouring into glass by Bashutskyy via Shutterstock.

Next page: Brewers big and small focus on water reduction