Craft brewery cuts water consumption by 10%

Benefits of the program included 10% less water consumed per unit produced and 2% less beer lost during trucking per unit of wort produced.

By Eric Meliton and Lloyd Hipel

As communities grow in population, there is an associated increase in water consumption and wastewater generation. One approach to meet this increasing demand is to build new (or expand existing) drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities, including the pumps, conveyance, storage facilities, etc., required to treat and deliver potable water to consumers and convey and treat the resulting wastewater.

In addition to the high capital costs associated with this approach, it also has significant impacts on greenhouse gas generation.

Realizing the high costs associated with increasing water supply to serve their growing populations, some larger municipalities have found more cost-effective and environmentally sustainable alternatives to incentivize people to conserve water. The conserved water then provides the extra capacity to provide for their populations. Thus, five Ontario municipal governments in particular – City of Toronto, York Region, Region of Peel, City of Guelph, and the Region of Waterloo – operate various water conservation programs aimed at residents and industrial, commercial, and institutional (ICI) facilities.


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To continue the focus on water and energy conservation efforts, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority’s Partners in Project Green program established a Municipal Eco-Cluster working group, which convened from February 2017 to December 2018. The Municipal Eco-Cluster (funded by the Independent Electricity System Operator’s Education and Capacity Building Program 4.0) offered collaborative access to industry experts and municipal stakeholders, providing a unique connection driving conservation of resources.

The objective of the Municipal Eco-
Cluster was to showcase a set of capital projects derived from the implementation of best practices, along with the development of case studies that could be shared with other target audience municipalities and government stakeholders on the benefits of water conservation through the lens of energy footprint and GHG emissions’ reduction.

WET program

The Region of Waterloo’s Water Efficient Technology (WET) program has both home and business versions for ICI facilities and homes. For ICI facilities, the WET program provides a cost-share water conservation and incentive program, which generally provides the following:

  • Provides flexibility for determining a scope (and hence cost) appropriate for the size and complexity of a facility.
  • A facility can choose an appropriate consultant to conduct the water assessment and are entitled to a 50/50 cost share program.
  • Concurrent energy efficiency assessment can be bundled with the water conservation assessment.
  • Up to $100,000 in incentives to offset capital costs for installation of water-efficiency measures at a rate of $0.40/L water saved per average day. These financial incentives are applicable to facilities that achieve water savings if payback of capital costs takes two years or more.

This approach encourages direct and indirect benefits such as reduced utility costs (water, electricity, and natural gas costs), the potential implementation of green initiatives, and the reduction of targets as directed by corporate requirements or government regulations.

Barriers to implementation

Each facility has its own unique decision-making process; therefore, there may be a myriad of other internal barriers to implementation. Some barriers are often not technology or regulation-related but involve people and the internal politics of the facility. Nonetheless, there are common barriers that have been identified when trying to facilitate implementation with customers, such as:

  • Competing, higher-priority projects such as building/process expansion, energy conservation projects, new process equipment, etc.
  • Staff changeover may mean losing an internal facility champion.
  • The person responsible for implementation has too many immediate responsibilities.
  • Limited staff resources to begin and follow through with implementation process. Many facilities increasingly operate with lean staff numbers.
  • Annual capital expenditure budgets already allocated to other projects.
  • Water conservation assessment is corporate driven, rather than plant driven. As such, plants will defer implementation due to the above reasons until told to implement.
  • Interest and motivation fades due to a combination of the above reasons.
  • Electrical and natural gas have traditionally overshadowed water use due to their higher priority, total cost, and GHG impacts.

Case Study – Waterloo Brewing

Waterloo Brewing is Ontario’s first and largest craft brewer. Originating in 1984, it built a new brewing and packaging facility in 2005 and has consistently worked to reduce its environmental footprint. Its efforts date back to 2007 when it retained Enviro-Stewards to complete a water conservation study suitable for participation in the Region of Waterloo’s WET program. In August 2015, the company installed a world-class, state-of-the-art brewhouse in Kitchener, which significantly reduced its environmental footprint.

Major processes include brewing, fermenting, filtering and packaging. Significant ancillary processes include clean-in-place systems to sanitize the tanks and pipes, glycol cooling systems for process chilling, and a steam boiler for process heating. Manual cleaning is also performed to wash floors and equipment using spray nozzles and high-pressure spray systems.

In 2015, Waterloo Brewing consolidated their King Street production facility in Waterloo into their Kitchener operation. Prior to the consolidation, beer was brewed, fermented and aged at the Waterloo facility and trucked to the Kitchener facility for filtering and packaging.

The company partnered with the Region of Waterloo’s WET program to incorporate water efficient measures into the new brewhouse installed at the Kitchener facility.

Prior to the move, the Waterloo brew-house required enough heat energy to boil 8% of every brew. Improvements in the boiling process in the new brewhouse reduced the required evaporation to 4%, a reduction of 50% in the required heat energy for boiling. The new brewhouse was installed with an energy recovery system, which captures half of the energy that was used for evaporation, resulting in a combined energy reduction of nearly 75%.

Together with other efficiency measures incorporated, water and associated co-benefits include 10% less water consumed per unit produced and 2% less beer lost during trucking per unit of wort produced. A co-benefit of the water conservation measures is the avoidance of 223 tonnes/yr of GHG emissions through associated energy savings broken down as follows:

  • 1.4 tonnes/yr avoided by the Region of Waterloo to supply water and treat wastewater.
  • 110 tonnes/yr avoided by Waterloo Brewing for reduced evaporative losses.
  • 94 tonnes/yr avoided by Waterloo Brewing’s supply chain for hop and grain production.
  • 18 tonnes/yr avoided by Waterloo Brewing’s beer transfer trucks.

These original measures remain in place and are presently contributing about $350,000 dollars each year to Waterloo Brewing’s bottom line.

Eric Meliton is with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority’s Partners in Project Green program. Lloyd Hipel is with Enviro-Stewards. This article appears in ES&E Magazine’s October 2019 issue.


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