How much water is contained in one beer?
According to a new a report, quite a lot actually. Every litre of beer enjoyed by thirsty South Africans takes about 155l to make, according to a report published by SABMiller in association with The World Wildlife Fund (WWF). More than 98% of the water used is associated with crop cultivation, both local and imported.
The report, Water footprinting: Identifying and addressing water risks in the value chain, evaluated the water footprints – a way of understanding water use through the whole value chain – of the major brewer’s beers produced in South Africa and the Czech Republic. This is reportedly the first ever corporate water footprint study to be undertaken. The report shows that SABMiller’s South African beer brands such as Castle and Black Label, require more water than their Czech counterparts, mainly due to a greater reliance on irrigation in South Africa and the proportion and origin of imported crops.
In comparison with other beverages, beer’s water footprint is relatively small, with a recent Pacific Institute study finding that coffee, wine and apple juice all have water footprints more than three times that of beer.
However, the water footprint itself does not give the whole picture. More important is the context – where the water is used, what proportion of the area’s total water resource it represents, and whether water scarcity creates risks to the environment, communities and businesses now and in the future.
“The water footprints of SABMiller’s beers in South Africa and the Czech Republic are the first detailed corporate water footprints to be published and are progressive in the way they examine the impact of water use in these countries,” reported Stuart Orr, WWF’s freshwater footprint manager. “Most important is that this information is now used to ensure that their business partners – particularly farmers – are encouraged to use water more efficiently.”
In South Africa, SAB Ltd is working with barley farmers to improve irrigation and yields, and with WWF the company is now considering how to develop this further to protect the watersheds within which it operates.
Source: The Water Wheel Volume 8 No 6
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