We are working to make our operations more water efficient while also taking steps to improve water security well beyond our brewery gates.
Ensuring future access to water, in the face of climate change, is a business priority. Goal six of the Sustainable Development Goals is to ensure clean water and sanitation for all. Specific 2030 targets include substantially increasing water use efficiency across all sectors, achieving universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all, and implementing integrated water resources management at all levels.
One of the ways we can contribute to Global Goal six is by brewing beer in a more water-efficient way. In recent years our breweries across the world have made great strides in this area. Our European business has been a particular leader, being the first SABMiller region to achieve a water-to-beer ratio of 3.0 hl/hl (that is, three litres of water used for every litre of beer brewed). This equates to a 29% drop in water usage since 2010.
Our target for 2020 is for our combined global operations to reach the 3.0 hl/hl threshold. We are well on the way to accomplishing this, having achieved a group-wide water efficiency ratio of 3.2 hl/hl in 2016.
It is also essential that we play our part in managing vital water resources to secure supplies for both our breweries and the wider community. A good example is the work of our Peruvian business, Backus, which is helping revive traditional water conservation techniques to protect the Rimac watershed – a vital resource that provides 75% of the water requirement for the country’s capital, Lima.
One of the most innovative of these projects involves the water recharging areas in San Mateo District, situated at the top of the Rimac basin around 3,000 metres above sea level. These pasture lands are used for cattle grazing by local communities, and Backus has worked closely with 118 farming families to revive traditional techniques that help to reduce rainwater loss, while also giving farmers opportunities to improve their livelihoods.
The new model being deployed by the farmers combines water sowing and harvesting techniques (including filtration ditches, water reservoirs, watering systems and reforestation) with better management and conservation of the pastures (including pasture sowing and cattle rotation).
To help implement the project, Backus drafted in specialists from the Lima Water Fund – Aquafondo – whose staff offered expertise in working at high elevations. The brewery also secured match funding from Fund for the Americas (FONDAM) and The Nature Conservancy, while endorsement from San Mateo’s Mayor helped secure significant community support.
Although the phased implementation of the project is still under way, it has already helped the participating farmers reduce rainwater loss on their land by 45%. This has been achieved through the installation of 2.4km of filtration ditches, plus the reforestation of four hectares of land of 4,000 indigenous pine trees.