Steven Spicer, editor in chief of WE&T Magazine, blogs about potable reuse and why it is a serious topic that deserves serious attention.
“Something new is brewing in Arizona” is the cover story in the October 2018 issue of Water Environment & Technology. This feature-length article focuses on very serious work being done by respected experts who dedicate considerable efforts to safeguard water supplies, protect public health, and educate the public. It’s also about beer.
We chose to use a beer bottle as this month’s cover image to represent this story and water reuse. But, we thought twice about the image. It seems almost disrespectful to condense such a complex and important topic down to something as lighthearted as a beer.
Potable reuse is a serious topic that deserves serious attention. States create exacting regulations based on meticulous engineering and analysis to ensure safety. Talented and trained operators run and maintain these systems with loving care to ensure that the product water is pure and ready for its intended use. None of this is haphazard.
So, we spent some time thinking about why the idea of popping the cap off a bottle and taking a swig of beer makes talking about reuse more palatable. Here’s what we concluded:
When it comes to seeing the value of water, you, as a water professional, have an advantage. You understand how science and technology can take wastewater and purify it into drinkable water. Your customers and neighbors may not share this knowledge or perspective. To bring them along requires lowering the stakes enough to open their minds to what — for them — seems absolutely absurd.
The journey from “no way!” to “yes, please” is much easier when the consequences are low. Mix in some humor and cheerfulness* and the possibility emerges to move past the yuck factor. Why would someone make beer from recycled water? What’s involved in making beer this way? Is it worth trying?
The questions start pouring out. And now all the underlying science that went into making a great beer pays off again with ready-made answers. Before long, they ask the big question: Which one should I taste?
*Beers made from recycled water have some great names. At WEFTEC® 2018, the Pure Water Brewing Alliance Beer Garden offered tastings of several reuse beers, including “What Hoppins @ WEFTEC American Pale Ale” and “Of Kolsch It’s Reuse!”