Friday, July 4

Oh God! Water scarcity means beer scarcity! Water Crisis Gordian Knot, Part 3

Forget superbugs, an elevated terror threat and civil wars in MENA.  This is serious.  The good news is that MillerCoors beer company has sprung into executive action, as has Campbell Soup Company. No no Campbell doesn't make beer but it's dawned on them that a world without enough water to make beer also means a world without Campbell soups. So those two for-profit concerns and other companies have pitched in to teach (or is it flog?) California farmers to adopt best practices when it comes to water conservation. This, while the state's politicians are still stumbling around in the face of apocalypse.

The water conservation exertions in the private sector were discussed last month at Pacific Institute in Los Angeles, where "leading corporate, nonprofit and technical water experts homed in on water stewardship and shared innovative solutions to the business and environmental challenges" relating to water scarcity, as Californian Emily Reyna reported to GreenBiz readers:
The Pacific Institute's water director, Heather Cooley, emphasized the limits of old thinking, and the importance of rethinking demand, supply and management of water.

Many participants agreed, stressing that we can't just do more of the same, such as building bigger centralized infrastructure or pumping more ground water when it's not being recharged at the same rate. [emphasis mine]

Instead, we need to reduce waste and increase efficiency, rethink economic priorities and choices in both urban and agriculture uses, treat and reuse wastewater, capture storm water, and improve data collection and monitoring.

Collaboration is key

Another theme that surfaced throughout the day is the importance of partnerships to achieve lasting results. Operating a brewery in the Irwindale section of Los Angeles, MillerCoors is constantly reminded how its capability to operate is tied to the city's water resources, said Kim Marotta, director of sustainability. Water risk is a material issue for the company; no water means no beer. To create change, companies like MillerCoors have to share the responsibility alongside communities.

If Marotta's talk was any indication, they are taking action. Partnerships with farmers have dramatically cut water use, runoff and energy use through innovations such as planting tall native vegetation, retrofitting irrigation systems and implementing best practices for water management.

Through these and other measures, MillerCoors was able to reduce water use by 1.1 billion gallons as a company, equivalent to the annual needs of 11 million people.

Follow the energy-water nexus

Campbell Soup Co. has been tracking the intersection of energy and water use since 2012, analyzing water efficiency at each point from well to discharge, according to Dan Sonke, manager of sustainable agriculture programs. [See the GreenBiz article for a link to a report on the tracking]

As a result, the food company has identified numerous opportunities to improve performance, through testing different irrigation scheduling practices and sharing data and best practices with Campbell's growers. 
The next Pundita post, which features another report from GreenBiz, has more good news.  A great many people are suddenly awake about the serious threat from water scarity and putting on their thinking caps. I mean -- beer! It doesn't get more serious.


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