City of Boise Teams Up With Local Brewers to Make Beverages From Recycled Water 

click to enlarge COURTESY CITY OF BOISE
  • Courtesy City of Boise
When you pick up a beer or hard cider at your favorite local spot, you probably don't look down at the bottle and wonder, "Where did the water in this come from?" Come October, though, you may want to keep that question front and center—because just as fall hits its peak, beverages made with recycled water will start to appear at local hotspots like Barbarian Brewing, LongDrop Cider Co., Lost Grove Brewing and Mad Swede Brewing, thanks to a new partnership with the City of Boise.

The initiative is called Pure Water Brew Boise, and it pushes the use of "pure, 100 percent recycled water" for brewing, an alternative to the typical course of sending the water into the Boise River and downstream after it leaves the City of Boise’s Lander Street Water Renewal Facility.

"Right now, we take all of that water that comes from Boise's homes and businesses, we treat it to a really high level, and then we put it back into the river, where it just flows away down the river and we lose all that comes with that water," said Colin Hickman, communications manager for the city's Department of Public Works. "We know as a high-desert city [that] how we utilize every drop of water is exceedingly important, so this project is really to see, 'Are there different opportunities where we can use the water that we're already treating?'"

Hickman said the main obstacle to getting people to drink recycled water is the "ick factor" that comes with the act of drinking something that was once in a toilet basin or flowing down a shower drain. That, he said, is where mixing it with alcohol comes in.

"When it's beer, for some reason the same 'ick factor' doesn't exist," Hickman said.

click to enlarge BY U3144362 CC BY-SA 4.0
That's not something the City of Boise figured out on it's own, though. The original Pure Water Brew, a competition out of Oregon inviting home-brewers to use treated wastewater for their beers, may have sparked the idea in 2015, but now cities across the country have piloted similar initiatives. The City of Trees partnered with the Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department in Pima County, Arizona, for its project, even using Pima's mobile treatment facility for the final few steps of the purifying process: "ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis, an ultraviolet light advanced oxidation process, and granular activated carbon for hydrogen peroxide quenching."

While there will be some additional cost to the city for the program, Hickman said it won't be large, and is well worth "shifting the conversation" on water. The impact on the Boise River will also be negligible, as the majority of the water the Renewal Facility treats will still go toward filling its banks.

To help facilitate the conversation further—and help citizens get over any remaining "ick factor"—the City of Boise will host a party with the brewers at the Lander Street Water Renewal Facility on Thursday, Aug. 30. Attendees can taste water that's been treated to drinking water standards, check out the mobile filtration facility (a giant yellow truck) and sample non-recycled beers and ciders from participating breweries from 5-7 p.m.
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