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What Happens in Vegas Doesn’t Always Stay in Vegas!

This blog post was written by Ken Kramer, Water Resources Chair, Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club

Sometimes being a water conservation advocate is tough work. For example, this week I had to travel to Las Vegas to attend the Sixth Annual WaterSmart Innovations Conference, the most prominent gathering of water conservation professionals and significant others held each year, hosted by the Southern Nevada Water Authority. This is the third one that I’ve attended, and I learn something new about water conservation and efficiency each year. Because water conservation is such an important part of the Texas Living Waters Project – and so important for the future of Texas – I’d like to share with all of you some of the important information about this critical topic that I’ve gathered from the conference.

No Water, No Beer

The conference kicked off Wednesday, October 2 with a keynote address by Kim Marotta, Director of Sustainability at MillerCoors, the consummate beer brewing enterprise. Why a keynote address from a MillerCoors representative? Simple – water is a critical component of the beer brewing industry, and MillerCoors has embarked in the last five years on a significant initiative to become a leader in using water more wisely and protecting this precious resource.

Water is a key ingredient in the production of beer, of course. But it might surprise you to know that as of 2008, it took 4.1 barrels of water to produce one barrel of beer brewed by MillerCoors. This is referred to as the water-to-beer ratio. In 2008, MillerCoors set a goal of reducing that water-to-beer ratio by 2015 so that it only would take 3.5 barrels of water to produce one barrel of beer. That wasn’t an idle target; the brewer has already met that mark. They did it through a variety of measures, including not only water use reductions at their eight breweries in the United States (including one in the Fort Worth area) but also by altering water irrigation practices on the farms of their barley growers in Idaho and elsewhere. For example, through a partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and barley growers in the Silver Creek area of Idaho, on one farm alone, MillerCoors and TNC helped to reduce water use by 20% from historic levels (419,000 gallons of water saved each year on this one farm).

This success by MillerCoors drives home the point that everyone has a contribution to make to water efficiency, and it also underscores how our society can improve water efficiency in so many ways that may not be readily apparent. We all need to take a look at what businesses and industries in our respective areas are doing and can be doing to be more efficient in their use of water. MillerCoors provides a good example for others to follow.

So, just keep in mind, the next time you hoist that bottle of a Miller or Coors beer, you’re not just enjoying your favorite beverage, you’re striking a blow for water efficiency. Just don’t become too efficient, okay? A moderate number of beers will suffice to advance water efficiency.

More from Vegas later!

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