Water is clear, the crisis is clearly not

As storm Francis hits the UK, it’s hardly surprising that almost ¾ of the British public believe the UK has enough water to meet daily demands and only 10% consider water consumption a key environmental consideration*. Meanwhile, parts of the UK are expected to run dry within 20 years**.

Plastic pollution and even carbon emissions are now household topics, thanks in large part to David Attenborough’s docs and headline news. They’re even points of competition for business – with accolades of “plastic free” or “carbon neutral”. Yet water… the scarcity of which poses an imminent threat… is still a mystery.

As brewers, we’re acutely aware of the issue, and of our responsibility to transform the way we work with water to prevent (and prepare for) a water scarce world.

We aim for ZERO water waste by 2030 across Carlsberg Group and a 50% improvement in efficiency by 2022. In 2019 at our Northampton brewery we used around 25% less water than in 2015 – a difference of almost 160 Olympic-sized swimming pools. We averaged 2.95 hectolitres of water per hectolitre of beer. While low for the industry, we know we can do better. We aim for 2.5 by 2022 and 1.7 by 2030. We’ll achieve this through efficiency improvements across every part of our brewery, and investment in innovation and technology to take us to zero water waste.

Work’s already underway across the Carlsberg Group. At our Danish brewery in Fredericia, we’re installing a state-of-the-art total water recycling plant that’ll recycle 90% of all the process water, taking water use from 2.9 hl/hl to just 1.4 hl/hl – world-class efficiency in brewing.

And at the Carlsberg Laboratory in Copenhagen, where the pH scale was discovered and the first pure yeast extracted and cultivated for brewing, our team of postdoctoral scientists – the Young Scientist Community – are researching how to meet our carbon and water targets. One of the latest trials involved using microalgae as a way of upcycling brewery effluents into feed and reusable cleaning liquids.

We’re making strides. But we cannot be complacent.

While we can reduce our demand for water and improve our ability to brew with less of it; on our own we cannot avert the crisis. We must work together to accelerate action across industries, governments, and the public – always striving for better.

Pete Statham,
Sustainability Manager at Carlsberg Group and Carlsberg Marston's Brewing Company