Episode #11 - Half Moon Bay Brewing Co, making beer using waste water

America has had its fair share of resource shocks. In the 1970s, upheaval in the Middle East led to severe oil shortages, forcing Americans to sit in their cars in lines to get gas that stretched for blocks. It actually made people change vehicles for a few years at least - the big gas guzzlers made way for smaller cars. Of course, the trend for SUVs over more economical vehicles has chopped and changed in the decades since then.

But today in California, a new type of resource shock has been unfolding, and it too may come to define an era, a generation on from here.

But its not oil that is getting everybody excited this time.

It’s water.

California has been devastated by a severe drought these past four years or so. Farmers have been ripping out crops, local governments have been ordering restaurants to stop serving glasses of water except to diners who specifically request them and religious believers have been endlessly praying for rain.

And the statistics about the Californian drought are seriously scary.

2014 was the state’s driest since the start of record-keeping in 1895. The state’s snowpack, the source of roughly one-third of the water used by California cities and farms, has been hovering at only about 20 percent of its normal water content. The amount of water in certain crucial reservoirs is lower now than it was in 1977, which was one of the two prior driest years on record. 

The effects of El Nino brought plenty of rain during the winter period, but some water experts predict California’s dry spell will last for decades.

Whether California’s water shortage will lead to lasting change in the way people use this precious resource remains to be seen.

But there has certainly been plenty of action and innovation among the business community. Companies like Driscoll’s - a berry-growing business in California which is one of many that has recently signed up to an advocacy campaign being run by Ceres called Connect the Drops.

Other members of that campaign are Anheuser-Bush – the company behind Stella Artois and Budweiser – which has cut its water usage rate by 23% since 2009 in the US, resulting in water savings of more than 2.5 billion gallons.

It has been reusing its effluent in auxiliary operations to reduce needs from local sources in many breweries such as its Los Angeles brewery, and supplies its effluent to local communities at nearly 40 of its breweries globally for agricultural irrigation, watering public park and in fire-fighting.

Other companies, like Levi Strauss & Co. are making their Water<Less finishing techniques publicly available to spur water conservation across the apparel industry. The techniques reduce water use in garment finishing by up to 96% and have helped the company save more than one billion litres of water since 2011.

And our guest on this week’s show is another such company.

The Half Moon Bay Brewing Company, situated just outside San Francisco, is making beer using the water that has already run through sinks, showers and bathrooms – using the technology pioneered by Nasa to recycle water to make it safe to drink while in space.

The trouble is, state legislation declares the beer not fit to sell – a situation the owner of the business, Lenny Mendonca is keen to rectify.

Enjoy the show.

For more on the Half Moon Bay Brewing Co, visit the website.

Here's the links to the various stories mentioned in our news section this week.

The PA Consulting report on EU car manufacturers.

News of Apple's efforts to boost the break-down-ability (is that a word) of its products.

The supply chain survey by the Ashridge Centre for Business and Sustainability

And finally, Coca-Cola Enterprises major investment.