General Electric has partnered with wine industry services provider Winesecrets and the University of California Davis to pilot a program using captured rainwater in wine production.
Reusing rainwater, rather than pulling freshwater from the aquifer, offers a way to supply the needed wash water in winemaking and conserve freshwater, helping winemakers in drought-prone areas like California alleviate the water burden in the winemaking process.
It could also provide an opportunity for beverage companies grow profits as two recent studies — one specific to wine consumers — have found that customers will pay a premium for environmentally and socially sustainable practices and products.
US wine consumers will are willing to pay, on average, $7 more per bottle for wine produced using “sustainable” practices, according to one study.
And research released by Unilever found a third of consumers (33 percent) are now choosing to buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good. Unilever says this represents a potential untapped opportunity of $1,024 billion out of a $2.7 trillion total market for sustainable goods.
In the new public-private partnership, GE’s Water & Process Technologies provided a reverse osmosis system and a total organic carbon analyzer to the winery at UC Davis as a way to use existing technologies with advanced digital capabilities for a new application. The pilot enables the winery at UC Davis to have more control over its source water by not having to rely on the aquifer with its varying water quality and availability.
The process starts by collecting rainwater from the roof of campus buildings. The capturing system transports the rainwater through downspouts to a holding tank with a capacity of 1,200 gallons. After going through a 50-micron media filter, it is pumped into two 45,000-gallon storage tanks that feed the water treatment system.
Finally, it is used to clean tanks and other winery equipment.
“The rainwater is cleaner than groundwater sources, as it doesn’t contain as much mineral content — that makes filtering the water easier,” said Jill D. Brigham, Sustainable Wine and Food Processing Center, University of California, Davis. “We treat about 7,000 gallons per day of water for use in the winery.”
Because rainwater has fewer contaminants than traditional municipal water sources like rivers, lakes and groundwater, this also reduces overall treatment costs making the process more cost-effective. Relying on stored rather than municipal water puts the winery in control of its supply, avoiding the costs of using municipal water as well as the varied quality of municipal water.