Would you drink wastewater? What if it was beer?

Would you drink wastewater?  What if it was beer?

Epic OneWater Brew looks like your classic hipster craft beer.

The can features a sleek design with a shadow of the city skyline, and opens with a satisfying whiff. The beer, Kolsch, has a crisp golden color and a distinctive fruity taste.

But there’s one big difference: It’s made from recycled wastewater.

Epic OneWater Brew, the product of a partnership between a wastewater technology start-up and a Bay Area craft brewery, is made from treated shower and laundry water collected from a luxury high-rise apartment building in San Francisco. And it’s not the only beer of its kind.

As water sources, especially in the western United States, are drying up due to overuse, drought and climate change, proponents of direct potable reuse – the use of treated wastewater in the drinking water supply – are offering it as part of the solution. Increasingly, they are turning to beer as a way of bringing people beyond the “wick factor” that has been hindering its wider acceptance.

If people are reluctant to drink recycled wastewater, the thought is that if it is served as cold water, they might be tempted.

Aaron Tartakovsky, co-founder and chief executive of wastewater technology company Epic Cleantech, which worked with Devils Canyon Brewing Company of San Carlos, California, to create Epic OneWater Brew, said he wanted to create the beer to show the “untapped potential” of water reuse.

“We live in what we at Epic like to call a ‘flush-and-forget’ society,” he said. “We have this innate yuck factor when it comes to talking about wastewater, or sewage, and all these other kinds of yuck-factor topics.”

Some western and southwestern cities, which are struggling to manage the challenges of population growth and strained water supplies, have held competitions for craft breweries to create signature beers using recycled wastewater. California, Idaho and Arizona are among the states that have worked with local breweries to raise awareness about the need to reuse water.

Scottsdale, Arizona, which has irrigated nearly two dozen golf courses with treated wastewater since the 1990s, received a state permit in 2019 to allow direct potable reuse of its purified recycled water. Scottsdale is not currently sending that water into the drinking supply, but Brian Biesemeyer, executive director of Scottsdale Water, said that could change in two or three years.

To help the public understand the concept of drinking treated wastewater, Scottsdale Water invited 10 breweries to brew beer using water from the city’s advanced water treatment plant and serve it at an arts festival in 2019. The beer tent was accompanied by an information booth that explained the recycling process.

Mr Bisemeyer said that while people were at first surprised at the prospect of drinking treated wastewater, many were eager to sample the beer after a tutorial on how clean and safe treated water is.

“We found the beer program to be a fun way to get people out of that fear,” he said.

Desert Monks Brewing Company of Gilbert, Ariz., which participated in the Scottsdale challenge, has adapted the concept and made two beers with Scottsdale’s treated wastewater. Sonoran Mist, a lager, has quickly become the brewery’s top seller, and Hefeweizen will be added to the lineup next month.

The brewery’s two owners, Sommer Decker and John Decker, believe that Desert Monks is the first brewery in the country to continually offer beer made from recycled wastewater on tap.

“We are a small brewery, so being able to get this ultrapurified water from a large scale unit gives us water that is more pure than we can get from our system,” Ms. Decker said.

Efforts to promote widespread use of recycled drinking water have faced a perception problem, exacerbated by critics who have denounced the process as “toilet to tap”. But researchers at Stanford University found last year that recycled wastewater is safe to drink, too. Less toxic than other tap water sources Because it is treated more harshly.

In Scottsdale, that process includes ozone infusion, microfiltration and reverse osmosis, in which water is pumped across a membrane to remove dissolved minerals and other impurities. The water is then turned off with ultraviolet light. Taken together, these measures take away “the gloom about everything,” Mr Bisemeyer said.

“I think the biggest thing was that it tasted good,” said Chris Garrett, owner of Devils Canyon, where the Epic OneWater brew was created, adding that people have preconceived notions about wastewater. “They believe, ‘Oh my God, it’s muffled water.’ And it’s like, it’s actually cleaner than the water that comes out of the rivers.

Epic Brew was born 2021 San Francisco Ordinance New buildings larger than 100,000 square feet require an on-site water reuse program. Epic Cleantech partnered with 1550 Mission Street, a luxury high-rise apartment building, and Devils Canyon to turn the building’s wastewater — water from laundry and showers, not toilets — into beer. The epic OneWater brew is not for sale, but Mr Tartakovsky said he served it at his wedding last month.

When a brewery in Half Moon Bay, California, decided to try making alcohol from wastewater, it turned to a neighbor for help: NASA, which developed its own water recycling technology so its astronauts could drink water in space. Half Moon Bay Brewing Company picks up recycled greywater from the space agency’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, and uses it to create a limited-edition India Pale Ale called Tunnel Vision. Beer was served at events for a limited period between 2014 and 2017.

“The water here was even more neutral than the water we’re used to,” said James Costa, brewmaster at Half Moon Bay. “No one could tell the difference.”

Pure Water Brewing Alliance An alliance of water utility companies, brewers, engineering firms, and technology companies that share resources, technology, and know-how to use recycled wastewater to make beer. Travis Loop, one of the coalition’s leaders, said the goal is to “judge water by its quality, not its history.”

“We have the technology to clean the water, to purify the water,” he said. “And as we can see at the present time, we need to do a lot more of this.”

Boise, Idaho, a rapidly growing city in the high desert, turned to the coalition when it was looking to update its water treatment and distribution systems in 2018. A fellow member, Pima County, Ariz., offered Boise a trailer with technology that can turn wastewater into potable water. Mr. Loop said other members shared the paperwork used to obtain permits to use recycled wastewater to make beer, a process that at first took six months to six weeks. Boise teamed up with three breweries and one cidery, and hosted events in 2018 where recycled wastewater beverages were served.

Right now, Recycled Wastewater Beer is only available for sale in Arizona. Since California’s wastewater cannot be consumed, breweries there are limited to one-off brews for specific events. In Idaho, a permit that allows consumption of reclaimed wastewater was only valid for a short time in 2018, but Boise is developing a full-scale water recycling program.

Scottsdale is the only city in Arizona that allows the public to sample recycled wastewater. This works to the advantage of the Desert Monks, who have taken advantage of their access to large quantities of ultrapure water. One of the brewery’s co-owners, Mr. Decker, a self-professed “huge science fiction buff,” joked that he had his sights set far beyond Arizona.

“I’m using the same water procedures that astronauts use,” he said. “So if someone is going to Mars, we have beer for them.”

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