Water is arguably our most precious resource, but one that we all take for granted every day. While it's understood that our natural resources are vital to preserving our way of life, taking action to ensure that we maintain many things we hold dear can be a challenge.
Anheuser-Busch is working to create a lasting and unparalleled impact across the beer industry — one that allows us to continue accessing resources such as water for generations to come. At Anheuser-Busch, we're using over 160 years of experience to generate an impact not only across our business, but in the communities where we operate — from barley fields to bottling lines — by making our operations more environmentally sustainable.
Seeking innovation drop by drop
We continuously look for ways to make Anheuser-Busch's supply chain more sustainable, particularly when dealing with crop cultivation, water-use efficiency and our overall impact on the environment. Our goal is to continue to produce high-quality barley and maintain yield, while conserving and reducing the volume of water that it takes to grow our raw materials.
In Idaho, for example, we've partnered with the Bureau of Reclamation, the University of Idaho, Washington State University and all of our barley growers in the region to conserve water through smart-irrigation practices and the installation of six new AgriMet weather stations.
AgriMet is a network of agriculturally based weather stations throughout the Pacific Northwest. It's managed by the Bureau of Reclamation, a federal water management agency. Anheuser-Busch funded the installation of these weather stations throughout southeast Idaho to help growers in the region instantly access real-time weather and crop water-use data from the federal government's AgriMet system online and via a smart phone app — at no cost to growers. We're putting this technology directly into the hands of our growers to conserve water and make the greatest impact where it's needed most.
This innovative use of technology produces data that allows growers to better monitor rainfall and soil conditions to reduce the amount of water used in irrigation and decide exactly when to irrigate. This improves the way we do business by ensuring water is being used efficiently to grow the most vital ingredient in our beers.
The data collected by the weather stations is available free to interested growers — as well as the general public — thereby expanding the positive impact beyond our footprint. We've made a conscious, top-down effort to invest in our growers because we understand that supporting the communities where we operate is not only "good for the environment, but good for business" — a saying we have been using for more than 20 years.
The future of barley and beyond
This year, we also kicked off our SmartBarley program to provide farm-level benchmarking for our growers, enabling them to compare their output through advanced productivity and key environmental performance indicators to other growers in their region and around the world. This will allow for best practice sharing and create a smarter approach to producing high-quality malting barley through knowledge transfer and grower exchange.
Our focus on increasing efficiency in barley production supports our long-term sustainability objective of reducing impacts across our global value chain. For example, at our U.S. breweries we have reduced our water use by 32 percent in five years and by more than 45 percent in the last 10 years, finishing 2013 at a leading-edge 3.25 hectoliters (or barrels) of water per hectoliter of production. We also work to improve watersheds in all of our brewery cities, with an emphasis on California and other high-risk locations prone to drought.
Looking ahead, we have committed to reducing water risks and improving water management in 100 percent of our key barley growing regions by the end of 2017 in partnership with local stakeholders. Our Seed Research Facility in Fort Collins, Colo., develops barley seeds that require less water for the same or greater yield. We've found that winter barley, for instance, can be planted and harvested earlier in the year, using 25 percent less water with 30 percent higher yields.
For many communities, growing water scarcity is a defining and complex challenge that Anheuser-Busch is helping to solve by adapting the way we operate and collectively creating solutions.
We have a deep understanding of local growing communities, shaped through generations of barley cultivation and our collaboration with a range of partners. We are attuned to what growers need in order to use land, water and other resources efficiently, and have put our resources, knowledge and expertise behind them to provide an authentic approach to addressing water scarcity. This shared-value approach ensures supply while driving topline business growth, making it a smart investment for our business, our customers and our communities.
Anheuser-Busch has a vital role to play to help ensure that our products are produced efficiently for all to enjoy for years to come. We're doing our part to make sure that our beer is made with less water than ever before — from seed to sip.
Top image of Budweiser by oneinchpunch via Shutterstock.