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MillerCoors Saves 1.1 Billion Gallons of Water in Supply Chain

MillerCoors Saves 1.1 Billion Gallons of Water in Supply Chain

16 June 2014

US - From 2011 to 2013, MillerCoors saved more than 1.1 billion gallons of water as a result of its use of short interval controls and improved efficiencies throughout its brewing and packaging processes.

Water flows through every step of the brewing process, from the barley field to the bottling line. The availability of clean, fresh water is critical to MillerCoors and to others in the surrounding communities and MillerCoors is continuously seeking new ways to use less water.

To help protect and sustain the supply of water, MillerCoors has established a four-part water stewardship strategy:

  1. Water usage: Improve water efficiency in our operations.
  2. Wastewater: Protect water quality with modern treatment technology and strict wastewater management controls.
  3. Watershed assessments: Understand our breweries’ and agricultural supply chain’s watersheds through risk assessment.
  4. Community investments: Support water stewardship in our communities.

MillerCoorsMillerCoors water and energy use reached record lows last year, according to the 2014 MillerCoors Sustainability Report. The nation’s second-largest brewer is now using an average of 3.48 barrels of water to brew one barrel of beer, a 9.1 percent decrease from 2012. For comparison, some US breweries use more than 6 barrels of water to produce a single barrel of beer.

MillerCoors decreased its energy use by 15.6 percent from 2012, saving 1.6 billion mega joules of energy over the course of 2013. With these reductions and others, MillerCoors surpassed all the environmental stewardship goals it set out to achieve by 2015.

The brewer also reported on efforts to reduce water use in its agricultural supply chain. Teaming up with The Nature Conservancy, MillerCoors built its Showcase Barley Farm in Idaho’s Silver Creek Valley to pilot new farming techniques that save water while still producing quality barley. Using these techniques, the farm has saved more than 429.5 million gallons of water over the past three years.

A similar program on the MillerCoors Farm in Colorado’s San Luis Valley tests water-saving techniques and shares best practices with barley growers.

MillerCoors has a deep history in Colorado’s San Luis Valley and has been a landowner there for more than 50 years, sourcing barley from nearly 150 independent growers in the Valley. Many farms in the region depend on the aquifers that run beneath the Valley floor for irrigation. Those aquifers have been steadily declining over the past 44 years and are currently at record lows.

Judy Jolly, Agronomist“Water is a huge concern in the San Luis Valley,” said Judy Jolly (pictured), Southern Colorado Agronomist and San Luis Valley native, who is personally familiar with the challenges facing growers in the region. “The majority of people who live here are involved in agriculture. Their livelihood and our community depend on water.”

This past year, Jolly and her team conducted a grower survey to determine which management practices are applicable across the Valley’s farms and which could serve as a model to other growing regions.

One of the best practices reviewed was shutting off end guns, which are the sprinkler nozzles at the end of watering arms which can save 100 to 200 gallons of water per minute when turned off. Replacing nozzles with more efficient ones was another best practice.

In addition, MillerCoors is researching new varieties of barley (pictured above) that require less water while maintaining quality, and the feasibility of shutting off irrigation earlier in the season. It’s possible that growers may be able to stop watering seven to 14 days before harvest and still produce high-quality barley.

Using data collected at the MillerCoors Farm, Jolly is able to share proven successes with growers to help them save more water, maintain soil health, reduce pollutant runoff and increase productivity.

MillerCoors Water to Beer Ration“It’s one thing for us to have great ideas, but never have to implement them ourselves,” said Jolly. “By using the MillerCoors Farm to pilot those ideas first, we’re showing leadership and that we’re committed to playing a key role in securing the local water supply and maintaining crop quality.”

MillerCoors continues to provide learning opportunities and share best practices through one-on-one meetings with growers and at other regional gatherings through their Grower Direct program.

The platform allows MillerCoors to contract directly with 864 barley growers in Colorado, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, and gain closer alignment on sustainable farming practices that produce quality barley.

“The bottom line is that if you’re not on top of technology and new varieties, the odds are against you in the long run,” said Jolly. “Our growers have been really proactive in water conservation and one of the best things we can do as a company is to continue to be supportive and lead by example.”


Sarah Mikesell, Senior Editor

Sarah Mikesell, Senior Editor

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