Recycling the beer

We have faculty affiliated with the University of New Mexico Water Resources Program working on public acceptance of wastewater recycling and reuse. We have faculty who make beer. This is a story for us:

Pima County water officials want to organize a statewide brewery competition where beer-makers compete using purified wastewater….

The goal of the “Brew Challenge” is to sway public perception of so-called “potable re-use” and tap an unused water source.

The jokes here really just write themselves. But in my new academic life in the University of New Mexico Water Resources Program, this is one of the interesting projects we’re working on – bringing my communication skills and background to research into questions of public risk perception and acceptance, overcoming the “yuck factor” associated with purifying sewage for direct potable reuse.

The beer idea seems brilliant.


  1. What do you think about the new research from Paltiel et al. (Env. Sci & Tech, 50(8)) that shows human uptake of pharmaceuticals that were leftover in treated wastewater used for irrigation? That’s even one step away from reclaimed wastewater used to brew beer (that is, it goes on the plant -> into the food -> into the human, rather than into the beer -> into the human). I’m sure the treatment methods are different, but I doubt they’re designed to handle pharmaceuticals and other emerging contaminants.

  2. The re-use of wastewater I think is possibly the biggest game changer in the CA water crisis. Orange County is already doing this, but can’t go “toilet to tap” due to regulation, vice purity of water, so they recharge aquifers with it. Just imagine if LA’s water district could do this, it would dramatically cut their reliance on the Fed, State and CO river water projects.

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