MillerCoors Reduces Water Use by 17%, Battles Risk with These 3 Strategies

by | Jul 12, 2017

MillerCoors used new tools and irrigation initiatives, along with increased brewing efficiencies, that helped the brewing giant reduce its water consumption by 15 billion gallons in 2016, the company announced today. Wet weather also contributed to the 2016 reduction, the company acknowledged. MillerCoors used 16.9% less water compared to 2015 – equivalent to more than 500 million kegs of beer.

Water Reduction Strategies

Partnerships with Farmers

On MillerCoors’ Showcase Barley Farms in Idaho and Colorado, the company researches and develops water conservation techniques to grow barley more sustainably by using practices such as precision irrigation technologies, soil improvements, and companion cropping. Best practices from the showcase farms are shared through the company’s barley program, providing an opportunity for growers to obtain and share information on how to meet water reduction goals.

Partnering with growers on environmental stewardship through the company’s barley program reduces risks for both parties and allows MillerCoors to work directly with farmers to determine the techniques that are best suited for their specific land. In 2016, MillerCoors launched the Grower Portal, a digital platform for information gathering to further enhance water savings and eventually lead to data sharing among growers.

Employee Innovations

One of the company’s most successful water reduction practices is its employee-driven monitoring and processing systems, which include short interval controls and optimizing clean-in-place systems to reduce rinse cycles. Where possible, the company captures and reuses a portion of wastewater after brewing for processes such as equipment cooling and utilities operations that never come into contact with any of its products.

Irwindale Solar Array

In 2015, MillerCoors commissioned a photovoltaic solar array with over 10,000 panels at their Irwindale brewery in California, the largest of any brewery in the country, according to the company. In addition to providing approximately 5.5 million kilowatt-hours of renewable and sustainable energy each year, MillerCoors has been able to reduce water usage. The solar array replaced irrigated landscape and reduces the water impacts of local power plant cooling, with the goal of reducing consumption by 695,100,000 gallons over a 30-year period.

Facing Down Water Risk

As resource scarcity becomes a greater risk for the water-intensive brewing industry, breweries are innovating just as fast as they can. CA-based Ballast Point Brewing Co., for example, announced recently that it has completed its first two batches of beer made with water extracted literally from thin air. That is, the brewer is using water produced from Ambient Water’s AW400 water generator, which extracts moisture from San Diego’s coastal fog and produces hundreds of gallons of potable water per day. And Jackson Family Wines installed 21 Tesla stationary energy storage systems that have helped offset some of the most costly — and energy intensive — wine-making practices such as process water treatment and refrigeration and cooling.
Editor’s note: MillerCoors (Irwindale Solar Array) and Jackson Family Wines (Tesla Stationary Energy Storage System) were both recipients of an Environmental Leader Project of the Year Award in 2016. 


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