Why Every Watershed Needs a Brewery

A couple weeks ago I tweeted that every watershed needs a brewery.

This was in response to a story about a brewery helping with a water quality project. So really, what if every major watershed had a brewery?

  •  More Local Variety. Breweries anchored in communities like textile mills of old would appeal to their own community. Case in point, my local summer favorite is RJ Rockers’s Son of a Peach Beer that uses real South Carolina peaches. Tasty.
  • Breweries could lead watershed protection efforts. There is no bigger nexus in the world than water and beer. Clean water equals great beer. New Belgium Brewery responded last week to a wildfire in its watershed where it gets its water by saying, “The health of the watershed equals the quality of our beer.”
  • Ultimate Basin Peace Maker. Forget about fermenting basin stakeholders jockeying for their share of water. If basin water issues are about to boil over, let’s just make the best brewery in the basin the ultimate decider. They could threaten to cut off the taps.
  •  Greener Beer. Earlier this year I wrote in another blog post that over 90% of a beer’s water footprint actually relates to the cultivation of raw crops. Combine local breweries with small-scale, artisanal malting facilities that are popping up everywhere (Great NYTIMES article), and you could have more sustainable beer production.

While craft breweries seem like they are growing like kudzu and may seem like they are choking the sunlight out of every basin now, they really aren’t. Here is the distribution of breweries in the southeast overlaid with major water basins (Red dots are the breweries, red lines are watershed boundaries).

Breweries of the South
Breweries of the South

One major basin without a brewery stuck out for me:  The Savannah basin between South Carolina and Georgia. So maybe instead of a brewery adopting a local watershed, maybe communities should recruit a brewery for the health of their watershed.

Tip of the day : Be sure to visit Beer Mapping Project before you head out on a road trip.



  1. Couldn’t agree more and as a water resource protection professional I partnered with our local brewery to create a “Clean Water – Tasty Beer” pint glass and coaster campaign with great success. It’s very true, water quality is very important to breweries and they have taken many great steps to help protect it.

    The biggest un-addressed issue I have is – what about the question of water quantity? What about a community or watershed’s rights to their own water? Up here in New England there’s a HUGE debate about Poland Spring water and how they come in and take the water from the local communities and ship it elsewhere, drawing down their aquifer. The local citizens have tried unsuccessfully to ban anymore water drawing.

    To make 1 gallon of beer it takes on average 5 gallons of water. So the question becomes – despite great efforts to protect local water quality there is still the issue of harvesting local waters and shipping out of the watershed which can have disastrous effects on the local populations health and future especially in these times of drought.

    Again, remember I’m on this side of clean water = tasty beer and beer companies doing their part to help promote and protect water resources, I just haven’t yet broached the topic of water quantity or water rights issues yet and I know they are coming down the pike…

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