- Issue: Winter 2020
Some archaeologists theorize that early humans settled near rivers not in pursuit of stable food supplies, but to domesticate crops for brewing beer (a process that made water safer to drink). That thirst for beer—and freshwater’s essential role in making it—hasn’t changed much since. But as erratic weather and droughts driven by climate change impact crops and freshwater, the world’s favorite fermented beverage could take a hit.
BREW HOUSE BREAKDOWN
The amount of water needed to produce one gallon of beer inside the average craft brewery. Most goes toward cleaning, cooling, and packaging operations, while some evaporates or washes away. Now, some breweries have adopted innovative strategies for reducing their water waste, from installing hot-water recovery systems to sourcing recycled H20 from wastewater treatment plants.
The number of craft breweries in California in 2019, the most of any US state. But while craft beer pours billions into the economy, it’s a water-intensive industry for a drought-prone region: In total, California craft brewers use around 651 million gallons of water annually—the equivalent annual water usage of 12,000 people.