One of the palpable ways climate change is hitting us all is in the form of droughts, and that means many people are rethinking the way we use water. This doesn’t just mean that we’re all aiming to use less of it; it also means individuals and organizations are finding ways to reclaim the water we’ve already used.
Wastewater can be recycled for consumption—yes, this includes used toilet water—and one brewery aims to convince the skeptics of its usefulness and culinary potential. What better way to do that than with a nice cold glass of beer?
The New York Times reports that a wastewater reclamation startup called Epic Cleantec has partnered with San Carlos, California–based Devil’s Canyon Brewing Company to create a beer called Epic OneWater Brew. This beer is in the Kölsch style, a clear and typically low-ABV option that’s particularly refreshing during summer.
The water that composes this beer is recycled from a luxury high-rise apartment building in San Francisco. That includes used shower and laundry water, two types you probably would not consider drinking on their own (though I would not put this past some people). Epic Cleantec co-founder and executive Aaron Tartakovsky is hoping to convince people that using purified wastewater can be palatable and believes that beer is a great place to start.
This isn’t even the first time people have used recycled wastewater for the purpose of brewing beer. In 2019, the water department of Scottsdale, Arizona gave 10 local breweries a chance to use recycled water from its advanced treatment plant. The resulting brews were served at an arts festival, complete with an explainer of the purification system and its thoroughly safe output.
While drinking recycled water from toilets and showers does sound a little funny on paper, research from Stanford University says that it can in fact be even cleaner and safer than say, drinking ground water or river water.
That’s because the wastewater is cleaned using reverse osmosis, which force-filters water through a sort of sieve that removes the stuff we wouldn’t want to drink. This is one of the most effective methods for cleaning water, and it’s more rigorous than the processes that clean our traditional water supply. When this ultra-purified water is compared to sources like river water, it can be comparably as safe to drink, Stanford professor of civil and environmental engineering William Mitch noted last year.
While Scottsdale’s public water supply isn’t currently supplemented with ultra-purified water just yet, it undergoes a lot of processing. This not only includes reverse osmosis, but also ozone infusion, microfiltration, and ultraviolet light treatment.
And guess what? Some municipal areas such as in Aurora, Colorado and Atlanta, Georgia already incorporate reused potable water into its drinking water supply. So as squeamish as you might be at the idea of drinking wastewater beer, a large population is consuming it on the daily. Generally speaking, anything that’s good enough for astronauts is good enough for me. Let’s raise an ice-cold beer to a more efficient future.