San Diego Craft Brewery Improves Sustainability by Tapping Into Recyclable Water

A countless number of industries, one of which being the rapidly expanding craft brewing industry, has faced hardships due to the historic drought plaguing California.

California is home to more craft breweries than any other state in the country with over 500 individual breweries in operation, according to the California Craft Brewers Association.

The sheer number of craft breweries combined with the widespread popularity of craft beers has made the sale of craft beer a major contributor to California's economy. Last year alone, craft breweries contributed $6.5 billion to the state economy, according to The Associated Press.

But the high demand for craft beer has also resulted in a high demand for water.

"Brewing is an extremely water-intensive process," Matt Akin, brewmaster of the Benchmark Brewing Company located in San Diego, said.

On average, it takes seven gallons of water to produce just one gallon of beer.

The Benchmark Brewing Company is a relatively new brewery in the San Diego area. It opened for business in June of 2013 as the drought was taking shape.

"Saving water was built into our brewing process from day one," Akin said.

"All of our chilling-process water is reclaimed [and filtered] and used to clean and to brew," he continued.

Going through extra steps to recycle and re-purpose water may be arduous, but it is crucial for the brewery in order to reduce water usage.

While some breweries are finding creative and innovative ways to re-purpose water, the drought could force some breweries to move out of the region to an area where water is more abundant.

"Drought has the potential to move a lot in the industry outside the state or prevent it from growing," Cheri Chastain, sustainability manager for the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, told the AP.

The Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is one of the larger breweries based out of California that ships beer all across the United States.

Water restrictions have also forced some breweries to reduce their water usage in order to avoid a fine. This has put a strain on smaller breweries that cannot afford the equipment required to recycle and re-purpose water.

There is some good news for the hundreds of California breweries feeling the effects of the historic drought.

One of the strongest El Niños in the past 50 years is taking shape, and it is expected to drive heavy rain and mountain snow into California.

According to AccuWeather Expert Long-Range Forecaster Paul Pastelok, the 2015-2016 season may yield triple the amount of snow than that which fell last year in the Sierra Nevada. Snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is crucial for replenishing dwindling reservoirs and state water supply.

"The current deficit is too large for this winter to end the drought," AccuWeather Meteorologist Ben Noll said. "But this would certainly put a dent in it."

But even when the drought is over, reducing water usage will remain a focus for operations of some California breweries.

"Whether the drought continues or not, we will continue to look for ways to conserve our water use," Akin said. "We go through a lot of water and that ends up costing us a lot of money. It just makes fiscal sense to find ways to not use too much."

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