Changing the Conversation

March 5, 2015
Beer brewing competition sparks ideas about water reuse

About the author: Sheri Wantland is public involvement coordinator for Clean Water Services. Wantland can be reached at [email protected] or 503.681.5111.

Beer starts conversations, and people are talking about water resources thanks to the Pure Water Brew competition. The brewing contest was a public-private collaboration of Clean Water Services, a water resources management utility in Hillsboro, Ore., that serves more than 500,000 customers; the Oregon Brew Crew, one of the oldest and largest homebrewing associations in the country; and Carollo Engineers, a national environmental engineering firm that produces water treatment systems, to kick-start conversations about water. 

As drought conditions continue to threaten sources of clean water in the U.S., many communities are instituting conservation measures and reconsidering how they can purify water. Many people have a grasp on the natural water cycle, but draw a blank on where their water comes from and where it goes, which makes it hard to engage ratepayers, regulators and policymakers in important decisions about precious water resources. 

“All water is reused,” said Andy Duyck, chairman of the Clean Water Services board of directors. “Mother Nature knows that. We need to be judging water by its quality, not by its history.” 

Pure Water, Pure Beer

The Pure Water Brew competition was initiated as a way to spread the word that water can be cleaned to any desired level. 

“The water used in this competition was purified with the same techniques used by premium bottled water companies,” said Andrew Salveson of Carollo Engineers. “This purification system produces some of the safest water on the planet.” 

Clean water is the most important ingredient in beer, and makes up more than 90% of its content. The historic German beer purity law Reinheitsgebot allows only four ingredients, all natural, in the brewing process: water, hops, barley and yeast. 

“Because brewers rely on clean water for their livelihood, they keenly understand [that] the water system is a cycle that is continually renewed,” said Jason Barker of the Oregon Brew Crew. “All the water we drink has been consumed before and will be consumed again—what better way to showcase that than in great beer?”

From Effluent to Beer

In June 2014, 1,000 gal of water were pulled from the Tualatin River in Oregon, immediately downstream of Clean Water Services’ wastewater treatment facility, where the flow is 30% effluent. The water was put through Clean Water Services’ high-purity water treatment system to clean it beyond drinking water standards. After purification, the water was offered to Portland-area homebrewers, who used it to brew beer for the Pure Water Brew competition. 

Thirteen brewers crafted 16 styles of beer, and the top four winners were:

  • Best in show: Ted Assur, Vox Max Belgian;
  • Second place: Jeremie Landers, German pilsner;
  • Third place: Mike Marsh, single-grain saison; and
  • Fourth place: Nick Dahl, kolsch.

These beers were featured at the WateReuse Assn.’s One Water Innovations Gala in conjunction with the Water Environment Federation’s WEFTEC.14 trade show in New Orleans in September 2014. The hope is that conversations inspired by Pure Water Brew will broaden understanding about the potential of reused water as a source of clean water. 

“We have the technology to clean any water for the right use, and we’re working on public awareness and social acceptance. Federal and state regulations will need to be revised to allow full access to reused water, even for human consumption,” said Mark Jockers, government and public affairs manager for Clean Water Services. “The Pure Water Brew competition helps people understand water technologies so they can rethink water.”

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About the Author

Sheri Wantland

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