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WY Craft Brewer, Facing Challenges, Works with City on Wastewater Management Solutions

The Ten Sleep Brewing Company, a brewery just outside the town of Ten Sleep, Wyoming, faces the need for expansion and, hoping to move inside the town limits, the City Council plans to implement a new wastewater ordinance to accommodate for industrial businesses within the town limits.

The new ordinance will take into consideration usage, volume character, and additional treatment requirements of the wastewater from the brewery. If the brewery moves and requires town water and sewer usage, the business will require additional water taps and an exclusive sewer tap for discharge, according to the Northern Wyoming Daily News. The ordinance also says it will review the charge system for industrial businesses every two years.

The news is of interest because of the risk of cost and supply that craft and microbreweries face when it comes to water consumption and wastewater management. Breweries, known for using large amounts of water that is eventually discharged into a city’s water treatment plant, face the potential for steep increases in sewer rates as they put increasing pressure on a municipality’s water infrastructure. Brewers must learn to find ways to work with municipalities to come to agreements on how wastewater will be managed. Justin Smith, with Ten Sleep Brewing, for example, understands that the limitations to Ten Sleep’s lagoon need to be evaluated. “At this point we need to understand what the lagoon can handle. There’s a certain biological oxygen demand, and the state and EPA guidelines dictate a certain percentage of how much can be released,” he said. “At our current location we are running lower than the permitted amount, and bottom line, the brewery wants to be a good neighbor.”

As craft brewers increasingly focus on creating products with environmentally responsible processes, they are finding innovative solutions for water and wastewater management. The Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon, for example, was facing an increase in sewer rates of 316% over the next few years. Those increases would equal well over a million dollars, so Deschutes explored decentralized water treatment options at the brewery and plans to have a $9.5 million system in place by the end of 2018. (A decentralized solution is one that manages wastewater at or near the site where it is generated).

Still, advancements in innovation aside, water management is a weighty problem for brewers. “Despite significant improvement over the last 20 years, water consumption and wastewater disposal remain environmental and economic hurdles that directly affect breweries and the brewing process,” according to the Brewers Association for Small and Independent Craft Brewers). Some of the solutions being explored by small brewers “go beyond facility water conservation programs to collaborative, sustainable solutions for the community and for the environment.”

Organizations that rely on water for their production processes need to be mindful of the future risks of cost and supply, which are key staples of a growing business. Small brewers are taking the risk seriously. “While the average water use ratio for a brewery is around seven barrels of water to one, many craft brewers are world leaders with ratios below three to one,” the association claims.

Mark your calendars: The 3rd Annual Environmental Leader & Energy Manager Conference takes place May 15 – 17, 2018 in Denver. Learn more here.

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