Water is everything on spaceship earth. No water means no life. And more importantly, no blue means no beer. Water is one of our favorite natural resources, and it’s the duty of a heavy-water-use industry like brewing to conserve water and support initiatives and organizations that keep water clean and aim to protect it for future generations.
Since October 2009, the all-volunteer event known as the Great Lakes Water Conservation Conference has been doing just that for brewers. It has brought together water quality researchers, Great Lakes water policy representatives, conservation policy makers, water treatment engineers and craft breweries. The conference focuses on practical solutions for water conservation and wastewater treatment and recovery within the brewing industry, while also providing policy, renewable energy and conservation advocacy. Since launching, the conference has traveled to Rochester, N.Y., Madison, Wis, Chicago, St. Louis, Grand Rapids, Mich., and now back to Milwaukee.
Plans are to hold the conference at Discovery World, April 19. The conference builds awareness and action on water conservation within the brewing industry. Many of the attendees learn from their peers and then go back to their breweries, implement new systems, record the data and return the following year to present their findings at the conference. Past presentations are posted on the website, www.conserve-greatlakes.com, free of charge.
“Water conservation is so urgent that if any sector of the economy can learn from a craft brewer’s experiences, or from a water policy analyst’s research, that information should be freely available,” explained Lucy Saunders, organizer for the Great Lakes Water Conservation Conference and author of Dinner in the Beer Garden and The Best of American Beer & Food. “The event has reached more than 600 brewers and several of the presentations were included pro bono in the Brewers Association Sustainability Manuals.”
Of course Saunders is quick to note: None of this would be possible without the help of volunteer speakers donating their expertise, time and travel, as well as the sponsors. Briggs of Burton Inc. has sponsored six of the seven conferences, which helps cover the basic costs for the event and web hosting. Other 2016 sponsors include Beechwood Sales & Service, BarFly Ventures, New Glarus Brewing Co., Goose Island Beer Co., S. S. Steiner, Briess and The Sugar Maple. The Brewers Association will award a service grant for sustainability outreach and education.
“The Great Lakes Water Conservation Conference is designed for brewers and those working with water and wastewater issues related to brewing,” said Ian Hughes of Goose Island Beer Co. “In addition to knowledgable speakers and presentations on all things water quality, the conference offers best practice sharing and hands-on facility tours that make for an exceptionally valuable experience.”
How on earth does a beer cookbook author become a water activist? Food, beer, farming, brewing: It all begins with water.
“My first job in high school was working as a lab tech washing test tubes in a water quality research station funded with a grant from a brand new government agency, the EPA,” Saunders said. “I took my sanitation skills to a restaurant kitchen and kept learning about food and cooking — but always with an appreciation for the value of water.”
The call for presentations (www.conserve-greatlakes.com/GLwater-blog/3630859) closes on January 11, and registration begins January 26.