It takes a lot of water to turn grapes into wine. No matter the size of the winery, all wineries face the same issue of dealing with wastewater.
One of the world’s largest wine producers—E & J Gallo Company—shared how small and big changes can reduce a winery’s water usage, and in turn, reduce the amount of wastewater that must be treated and handled.
John Nagel, environmental manager for E & J Gallo in Healdsburg, California, and guest speaker at the annual meeting of the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers, shared how Gallo’s Healdsburg winery reduced its water usage by more than 25 percent.
His talk was part of discussions that focused on a new general winery wastewater permit for Washington State being proposed by the Department of Ecology and wastewater tools and resources for wineries.
The impetus behind Gallo’s efforts included water shortages in California, winery capacity constraints, and their desire to implement sustainable winery practices and meet ISO 14000 (the Industry Standards Organization’s new environmental management standard).
Wastewater—not wine—is the number one product produced by the wine industry, said Nagel. “It takes an average of 80 gallons of water to process each ton of grapes.
That’s equal to about four gallons of water for every 750-ml bottle of wine.” Gallo’s water campaign, initiated in 2008, had two goals: to reduce water usage by 25 percent and to sustain or improve winery sanitation.
Nagel reported that the company exceeded both goals and reduced water consumption from an average of six gallons of water required to make a gallon of wine down to four gallons of water.
A game plan was developed, an intern was hired to help carry out the plan, and, most importantly, they leaned heavily for help on a winery wastewater guidebook, the Comprehensive Guide to Sustainable Management of Winery Water and Associated Energy, published in 2008 by the Wine Institute, American Society of Enology and Viticulture, and the National Grape and Wine Initiative.
“The guidebook is like a blueprint that tells you what to test, how to test, and helps you develop processes that work,” Nagel said.