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Op-Ed: Desalinated Water – Beer’s Best Friend

By John Wammes

The Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant has helped diversify our region’s water supply to support critical industries throughout San Diego. One of those industries, craft brewing, has become nationally and internationally regarded, propelling San Diego to be known as the number one craft beer destination in the country.

If you ask a non-Californian what comes to mind when they think of San Diego, they usually mention the beaches, the tacos and the beer. The first two have been part of San Diego’s DNA for decades, but it’s only in the past several years that San Diego has built a reputation for a wider variety of beer styles and flavors.

There are a lot of reasons why San Diego is able to maintain its place as a top craft beer locale. But one of the most important is often overlooked – high-quality water.

Yes, you read that right – high-quality water. It’s one of the special ingredients behind San Diego’s rise in the craft beer scene. Historically, certain beer styles originated from various parts of the world due to availability and characteristics of key raw materials, including water.   A Czech Pilsner or a Burton on Trent IPA are good examples of the impact of a region’s water supply on beer style offered in that region. The addition of desal water from the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant into our region’s distribution system has created a noticeable increase in overall water quality, which has helped make our beer that much better and the recipe options more versatile since the plant began operations four years ago.

Perhaps more importantly, the addition of the Carlsbad Desalination Plant into our water system has provided assurances of availability and high-quality water in this region – providing peace of mind that we have a long and sustainable future for our industry.

It’s not just good news for beer lovers, either! Everyone is benefitting from the addition of desal water into our water supply. In fact, a recent study found that our blended water supply has lower salinity and is much gentler on household appliances and water heaters thanks to the addition of desal water, increasing the average lifespan of household appliances and saving families money. This improved quality helps prolong our brewing equipment and industrial operations for our manufacturing companies, supporting the economic vitality of these critical industries, as well.

Ever since the Carlsbad Desalination Plant opened in 2015 and desal water began blending with local supplies, farmers have reported positive impacts and improved crop health. Crops require less soil flushing and less irrigation demand, helping farmers improve profitability and grow more of the region’s agriculture we love. Oranges, avocados and other significant crops can more easily absorb desalinated water because of the lower salinity levels. This lessens the burden of water consumption on farmers, benefiting them, too.

The diversification of our blended water supply has had a positive impact on our critical industries throughout San Diego, in addition to our region’s water quality overall. From a brewer’s perspective, great water quality creates great beer along with greater versatility in beer styles and flavors! Thanks to the Carlsbad Desalination Plant, San Diego businesses, industries and households can depend on a local, clean, reliable and drought-proof supply of high-quality water for generations to come. Cheers to that!

John Wammes has over 25 years of experience in municipal and industrial water treatment. He is President and CEO of Water Works, Inc., a company that specializes in designing ultrapure water treatment solutions for high purity applications. He also serves as an ultrapure water subject matter expert to several life sciences companies and teaches water purification for the Craft Brewing Program at University of California, San Diego.