MillerCoors - Combating Water Shortages In The Name of Beer
In recent years, torrid heat and devastating drought have depleted the once ample fresh water supply here in the US. After spending last summer in Southern Texas, I witnessed some of the hardships faced by many residents of the Lone Star State. Many professional and amateur farmers have had to cut or even eliminate herds of animals because the scarcity of rain has ruined once lush pastures. This year that same heat continues in Texas and has spread north through much of the plains states and Midwest. Water consumption on this planet has more than tripled in the past 50 years. And according to the Environmental Protection Agency, 36 US states are expecting to face some sort of water shortage by 2013.
MillerCoors has taken the onus upon themselves to lead the charge on water conservation. Surprisingly enough, it requires 4 gallons of water to brew a 1 gallon of beer, so you can understand what is at stake. Through their website, they have created the Water Conservation Challenge, which encourages people all over the World to pledge to save water through a number of avenues such as shortening shower times and running only full loads of laundry. Another one of the brewery’s efforts is their annual Water Stewardship Volunteer Month. Through this effort, employees will donate in excess of 1,500 hours of volunteer time partnering with non-profit organizations to protect local watersheds.
A recent internal audit at MillerCoors determined that 3 of their 8 US breweries could face potential water shortages. They have also taken a more localized approach to addressing this issue. Farming is far and beyond the largest water consuming industry, consuming up to 70% of the world’s fresh water supply. MillerCoors has taken the approach of working with farmers in and around those three breweries to develop sustainable methods. Working with local farmers, they have employed some basic and some advanced techniques for sustainability.
- Planting native grasses with deep root systems that hold more water
- Changing irrigation techniques and updating equipment
- Planting a wider variety of crops
- Evaluating new techniques for altering cattle grazing patterns
- Installing computers with complex monitoring devices that allow scientists to evaluate which grasses absorb the most water and are best suited for preventing runoff. Both of these factors also help to keep streams clean by minimizing sentiment contamination
MillerCoors has deployed macro level awareness in addition to the micro-level, “farm-by-farm approach”. Kim Marotta, MillerCoors director of sustainability, summareized: "It is not going to be one organization or one company or one government that is going to solve this problem. It is going to take all of us collectively."
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- Beer Universe