Globally rising water consumption is creating major challenges for the beverage industry

About 4 billion people experience severe water shortages at least once a month every year and more than 2 billion people have no access to drinking water. At the same time, global water consumption is rising and forcing the brewing, beverage and liquid food industry to practice sustainable water management.

According to the United Nations water consumption has been rising by about 1 percent annually since the 1980s. Increased demand, caused by population growth, socio-economic development and changing consumer behavior, is expected to continue rising at this level around the world until 2050 – an increase of 20 to 30 percent above today’s consumption levels.

Given the growing demand for water and the increasing impact of climate change, the United Nations expects the stress level and water shortages to continue to rise. For this reason, water supplies and management have become important issues for the brewing, beverage and liquid food industries.

© pexels / Samad Deldar for pexels

Asia to suffer the most from water shortages in the future

The World Resources Institute and the Future Directions International Pty Ltd. have identified the areas that will run short of water in 2040 and 2050. For example, the study found that 14 of the 33 countries that would experience severe water scarcity in the future are in the Middle East. Countries in southern Europe and Northern Africa also face water shortages – just like South, Central and North America.

Responsible use of resources is a key factor in consumption and investment as a current example from Mexico shows: Following a referendum of residents in the city of Mexicali, a brewing operation owned by the U.S. company Constellation Brands, which is 65 percent complete, was prohibited from going into operation. A total of 76.1 percent of voters spoke out against the start of production because the brewery could draw off water that the arid region so desperately needs.

Falling supply, rising demand, increased water consumption

These trends are fundamental to the global brewing and beverage industries – water is, after all, their most important ingredient. In beverage production, water also performs many other important functions such as processing, cleaning and providing energy. For this reason, water must be reasonably and sparingly used in all process steps.

In December 2018, the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER) issued a study that covered the resource use levels for beer, mineral water, wine, spirits and carbonated soft drinks. The study collected and analyzed the consumption levels of nearly 2,000 companies around the world.

The results of the study for the water-product ratio are shown in the table above. One clear finding is the dependence level based on company size, a fact that is highlighted in the table below by using beer brewing as an example.

As a result of future conditions, supplies are expected to fall while demand and consumption rise. Beverage and liquid food producers will have to comprehensively examine their use of water. There are many good reasons for them to do so: First, every liter of water and wastewater generates costs, which are expected to rise. Second, global players are working to create standardized production – designing processes with water use in mind. Third, new sources must be searched for and developed in response to water scarcity and the need to protect deep water. Fourth, water is an aspect of corporate social responsibility. And, last but not least, the careful use of resources has affected consumers’ purchasing behavior and approval processes for new and expansion investments for a long time.

For these reasons, drinktec has made “water & water treatment” one of its focal themes and will concentrate in particular on this critical issue: You will learn more about sustainable water management and new technologies in this area at drinktec, which will be held from September 12 to 16, 2022, in Munich. Would you also like to showcase your innovations in this area? Join us at the next drinktec.

drinktec Blog-Team

The drinktec team writes reports on everything to do with drinktec and gives insights into what is going on behind the scenes of the trade fair.