Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Great Lakes Craft Brewers & Water Conservation Conference

The Great Lakes Craft Brewers & Water Conservation Conference was held today at Discovery World on Milwaukee's lakefront today. It was a very education event that began at 9 AM with the keynote address by Wisconsin's Secretary of Commerce Dick Leinenkugel.

Mr. Leinenkugel presented some very eye opening facts regarding water. Although 70% of the Earth's surface is covered with water, only 1/3 of 1% is available for use. In the midwest we take water for granted, since it is so abundant. But water shortages elsewhere and recent attempts to ship Great Lakes water to other countries have really highlighted the importance of taking water conservation seriously here at home. The Great Lakes account for 1/5 the worlds fresh water and drive a 10.5 billion dollar economy. In conclusion, Mr. Leinenkugel highlighted the importance of the Great Lakes Compact and the need to adapt technology to conserve water being developed in Israel, which has become the “global Silicon Valley for water technology solutions.”

At 9:45 Russ Klisch of the Lakefront Brewery moderated a symposium on balancing the role of water as an economic and a natural resource. The DNR's Todd Ambs began this discussion by quoting former Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson "The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment" and then elaborated further on the Great Lakes Compact. The fundamentals of the compact involve monitoring and reporting of water use in the Great Lakes Basin, along with management of it's withdrawal and consumptive use. It's focus on water conservation is a tiered program with increasing requirements of use and replacement. Diversions of water from the basin are banned with only limited exceptions. Unrelated to water, but interesting to me, Mr. Ambs pointed out that Wisconsin and Minnesota account for 85% of the nations Brandy consumption and Wisconsin is number 1 in beer consumption. I have to say, I'm proud to be from Wisconsin, where "80% of life is just showing up"......for a beer!!

Tom Pape of the Alliance for Water Efficiency presented information on water use during the brewing process, disposal, and post consumption. The creation of beer begins at the agricultural cycle with the growing of grains and hops used to make beer and involves an extensive use of water through irrigation. The brewing process itself requires approximately 4 pints of water to make 1 pint of beer, which is itself; 92% water. The use of water in cleaning and disposal, post brewing and fermentation can be 20x greater then during the brewing process.

The symposium which followed was a delight for those of us who have a love for science. It was moderated by Dr. Robin Shepard and began with Dr. Kenneth Bradbury, Hydrogeologist in the Department of Environmental Sciences-University of Wisconsin. Professor Bradbury explained that all groundwater comes from aquifers in the ground. There are 3 major aquifers in Wisconsin, the Silurian Dolomite, Cambrian-Ordovician Sandstone, and the Precambrian crystalline aquifer. Next up, Dr. Jon Bartholic discussed "Current Threats and Water Protection Efforts in the Region", focusing primarily on withdrawal of water from the Great Lakes Basin.

For more interesting information, check out these articles:
  1. Chicago Tribune: Brewers worry that national water shortages will raise prices

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