“When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.” Benjamin Franklin 1746
As many people across the U.S. are currently running for higher-ground from snow melt and spring foods it may not resonate very well that conserving water in an important undertaking. That being said, there are lots of reasons why reducing water use is a good thing to do – even right now.
Water, A Limited Resource
As population growth continues in the U.S. and around the world, fresh water demand increases too. Using less water helps nature stay in balance by maintaining our aquifers, river flows and the natural evaporation that seeds clouds to begin the whole cycle again.
How much fresh water do you think is on Earth? The answer might surprise you. The earth’s surface is 97% covered by water, but most of that is salt water. The majority of fresh water is locked away in polar icecaps and glaciers leaving only 1% of all earth’s water as fresh water available for humans to access.
The Water-Energy Nexus
Conserving water also reduces energy consumption and decreases the use of natural resources and green house gas emissions from producing that energy. In California water use accounts 20% of all electricity and 30% of all natural gas use.
Winery Water Conservation Strategy
As farmers, we understand our future is tied to water availability, so we’re pretty committed to conservation. At our winery we took a three-step approach to get started. First, we did a project to determine how much water really costs to help us figure out financial benefits of taking conservation measures. Then we figured out some water savings opportunities and implemented the changes. Lastly, we realized you can only “conserve” so much water, so we tested new technology to recycle water over and over.
- Cost of Water Study: We had an engineer look at every instance when we put energy into water – like a pump or a water heater. Then we added up all the energy use and determined how much it actually costs to use water. Wow, were we surprised. The good news is now we can actually say to the finance department, by replacing the old water softener we’re not only doing the right thing by saving 5% of our water each year, we’re also saving money.
- Utility Pilot Project: We partnered with our utility company to come up with ways to reduce our water and energy use. Our utility company helped us measure how much water each of our processes used and identified ways to save water. We were surprised to find things like an old piece of lab equipment that used 2% of our total water. So we replaced it with a high efficiency model. When you add up all the small and big changes we made, we’re saving over 4,000,000 gallons of water per year.
- Water Recycling Pilot Project: We already use the water from barrel washing and tank rinsing for irrigation, but we wanted to reuse that water in the winery again and again. We spent 1 ½ years running a recycling pilot project with new filtration technology. We worked with the University of California Davis and California Department of Public Health to run the tests to safely and efficiently recycle the water. The project was a great success and showed that we could recycle up to 75% of the filtered water. In fact, we’re so pleased that we are currently looking for grant funding for a full-scale system to show it’s commercially viable.
This is how we got started on water conservation and we’ve been working on a whole bunch of other projects. I’ll share some of the cool ones with you shortly.