Wineries are notorious for using large amounts of water, with estimates ranging up to 20 gallons of water needed to produce a singe gallon of wine. Jackson Family Wines is one wine maker that has found a high tech way to put a billion-gallon dent in its own annual water consumption, and the implications could be enormous for wine rich, water poor states like California.
Jackson Family’s new water recycling system has just completed a “proof of concept” pilot run certified by the University of California at Davis. Once in full swing, the system will involve about 70% of the winery’s water use, which primarily goes to rinsing barrels and tanks. The new system will recycle 90% of that water for up to ten rinses but wait, there’s more: the recycled water also keeps 75% of its heat, which will save a significant amount of energy that would otherwise be needed to warm up cold water.
Water and Wine
Though some wine makers are pushing the consumption envelope down to less than two gallons of water per gallon of wine, the rule of thumb for California planners is six gallons, and many older wineries use far more. That’s fine for wineries located in regions with more than adequate rainfall, but it’s past the point of working in drought-weary California. Oregon is another wine state that is also at risk of water overconsumption.
Jackson Family Wines and Wastewater
Jackson Family worked in partnership with vinyard/winery wastewater and engineering specialists Heritage Systems Inc. and Riechers Spence and Associates to implement a system that removes wine dregs as part of the filtering process. This organic material could potentially be used as compost (pdf quick view), or it could produce sustainable biogas in a biodigester system. Currently the company is commercializing the pilot project at its Kendall-Jackson winery in Sonoma County, where it is expected to save six million gallons of water, 133,000 kilowatts of electricity, and 73,000 therms of natural gas.
Sustainability and the U.S. Wine Industry
Wine grapes are especially sensitive to climate change, and California vinyards and wineries have been taking the lead on adopting solar energy and other sustainability measures along with new water conservation technologies. If adopted on an industry-wide scale, as the Jackson Family company hopes, winery water conservation could help provide some much needed relief for California’s water woes, and support a nationwide trend in stabilizing water consumption in the U.S. overall.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.