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Swedish brewery launch a beer produced from recycled water

Paul Giles

26 Jul 18

Sweden’s New Carnegie Brewery has unveiled a new beer product PU:REST, which has been produced using recycled water. The new project is a partnership between IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute, New Carnegie Brewery and Carlsberg Sweden. IVL’s project manager Staffan Filipsson said: “The main purpose of the project is to highlight sustainable water management and raise awareness of the global water issues and the value of clean water.".

So, what could be the possible problem with such an innovative idea? Recycled water is already used in the maltings industry as well as wider food production, so why not in the drinks themselves? It is certainly not a technological issue, not only are reuse plants already in use, their operational costs are continually improving for the better, further highlighting the case for recycling wastewater. No, the issue is public perception. The idea of drinking recycled water still seems a big stretch for the public and as such, companies are reluctant to potentially damage their brands.

In England and Wales, we use 16 billion litres of clean drinking water every day – that’s equivalent to 6,400 Olympic sized swimming pools. Currently, water companies can provide slightly more than we need – 2 billion litres are available above and beyond what we’re using. In some areas, though, such as south east England, there is no surplus and, as such, these regions are more likely to face supply restrictions in a dry year.

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Research for the Adaptation Sub-Committee’s (ASC) 2017 Climate Change Risk Assessment evidence report considered a range of possible scenarios to assess water availability in the UK up to the 2080s. The research, by consultancy HR Wallingford, considered differing levels of climate change, population growth and efforts to adapt to the impacts of climate change. In the absence of further actions to those already planned by water companies to balance supply and demand, under a high population and high climate change scenario, UK water supply deficits are projected to become more widespread by the 2050s. In particular:

The north west of England and the Yorkshire and Humber region are projected to be highly susceptible to supply-demand deficits, as well as London and the south-east. However, deficits are projected in other parts of the UK as well, including areas of south Wales and the central belt of Scotland.

At a national scale, England, Scotland and Wales are projected to be in deficit by 800 million to 3 billion litres per day by 2050 (5–16% of total demand) and by 1.4 billion to 5 billion litres per day by 2080 (8-29% of the total demand).

So, what is the answer? It must be around educating the public about where their water comes from and having a frank and honest discussion about the cost, both financial and to the environment. The amount of fresh water available on the planet is finite, however population increase and changes to the weather pattern means that there is an ever-increasing demand on a resource that isn’t always conveniently in the right place, so we must learn to be better shepherds of what we have available.

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