This month, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) held a hearing to receive public comment on a proposed new use for reclaimed water. A proposal, released by the DEQ earlier this year, recommends a policy change to allow recycled wastewater to be used as a direct ingredient in the beer brewing process. The pioneering new recommendation has many craft brewers ecstatic. If approved, using recycled process water can create efficiencies in the brewing process, ultimately saving millions of gallons of potable water each year.
An extremely water intensive process, beer brewing can require as much as seven barrels of water to produce a single barrel of beer – according to the Brewers Association. Knowing for years that high purity water can be made from wastewater, craft brewers have been pushing for changes to DEQ water reuse policy. The pressure mounted by local brewers empowered Clean Water Services (CWS), a wastewater utility in the Portland metropolitan area, to ask for permission to use their recycled effluent to make beer.
CWS operates four treatment plants in the Portland Area. For now, the recommended policy language limits approval to use recycled water in beer only to CWS treatment plants. However, it is very likely that this new policy will pave the way for wide-scale acceptance of reclaimed water use in brewing. This may ultimately lead brewers to build their own water reclamation systems on-site.
Depending on results of the recent public input session, recycled water could start becoming a main element in many new Portland craft brews. Excitement around the proposal has sparked a plethora of potential new beer names, including: “naturally yellow” and “second time around.”
 State of Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, “Public hearing on proposed approval for a limited drinkable reuse of recycled water.” http://www.oregon.gov/deq/docs/022015drinkable.pdf