From Sewer To Suds: Transforming Waste Into Reusable Water For Brewing

The bar tap seems like the most unlikely destination for treated wastewater, but that's what a group of craft beer brewers in Oregon have in store. According to The Oregonian, this group will take part in a challenge that highlights how far filtration technology has come in creating drinkable water and creating sustainable environments.

Bottoms Up

Each day, wastewater treatment facilities throughout the United States reclaim approximately 1 billion gallons of wastewater for use as non-potable water, primarily for agricultural use, aquifer recharging and wildlife wetlands reclamation. Although many municipalities have considered creating drinkable water from municipal wastewater, concerns about safety, taste and overall expense of wastewater treatment to potable standards have largely stood in the way of widespread reclamation efforts.

Oregon craft brewers are intent on showcasing the possibilities of wastewater reclamation for drinking water in the upcoming Pure Water Brew Challenge. Using highly purified water taken from a local wastewater treatment plant, more than a dozen craft breweries will participate in creating beer varieties in an effort to erase stigmas over wastewater reuse for human consumption.

The water itself will be put to a highly stringent purification process that includes ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis and the use of ultraviolet radiation to remove and deactivate a variety of potentially harmful organisms. The end result, according to officials, is water whose quality goes above and beyond federal requirements for safe drinking water.

Winning entries will then have their brews showcased at the Water Environment Federation Technical Exhibition and Conference, where over 22,000 attendees will have an opportunity to try out brews made with reclaimed wastewater. Competitors also hope that this event will pave the way for relaxing state rules prohibiting the use of treated wastewater for human consumption.

Getting Clean Water from the Most Unlikely of Sources

Oregon isn't the only state where recycled wastewater has been refined for other uses. States like California and Texas have long since implemented water recycling programs that treat wastewater to human consumption standards. Recent investments in industrial filtration technology have helped these states ease their water burdens, especially under increasingly frequent drought conditions.

But wastewater isn't the only source of clean drinking water. Farmers in California's Central Valley region are benefiting from irrigation water courtesy of the major oil producers. As oil exploration unearths millions of barrels of crude oil, it's also unlocking millions of gallons of water trapped deep within the same underground formations that hold valuable oil.

One major oil producer has embarked on a project to transform the brackish water extracted from oil exploration into water that's suitable for irrigating farmland. Although the water is currently meant for irrigation and wetlands recovery, advances in filtration technology may make drinkable water from oil taps a possibility. Given how farmers and oil producers have historically been at odds with one another over water usage, it's a welcome development that holds plenty of promise for future water conservation efforts.

Promoting a Sustainable Future through Reclaimed Drinking Water

Converting sludgy wastewater into the stuff that comes out of your kitchen faucet is an idea that's quickly picking up steam, especially as wastewater filtration technology advances. Such advances may also bring a corresponding reduction in cost, especially when it comes to energy consumption – approximately 4 percent of the nation's electricity goes toward wastewater treatment.

The Pure Water Brew Challenge is one way that many groups throughout the U.S. are promoting the use of recycled wastewater for safe human consumption. Given enough time, it's possible that clean drinking water sourced from treated wastewater will be the norm, especially in areas where drought has pushed clean water reserves to their limit.

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