Dutch brewer Bavaria says its new malthouse in Holland can cut water consumption by up to 30 per cent, highlighting the beer industry's potential as a food industry leader in sustainable production.
The cut in water use was made possible by Ecosteep, a new type of flat-bottomed, steeping system developed jointly by equipment supplier Buhler and various universities.
Ecosteep, according to Buhler, cuts water consumption by saving on cleaning. The system has eliminated the clearance area below the kiln, a critical part of the cleaning process.
Its use in Bavaria's new malthouse in Eemshave, near the North Sea, is the system's first commercial outing.
Buhler said there were several other advantages to Ecosteep too, including its ability to produce more uniform malt quality by working with only a low depth of material.
The system's ability to save water, however, may attract particular interest from brewers at a time when authorities across the European Union are looking to clamp down on waste.
Water resources are a particular concern, highlighted again in recent weeks by the droughts that have hit vast swathes of southern Europe. Some regions have not seen rain for more than 130 days.
The World Resources Institute (WRI) says that around 40 per cent of the world's people now live in water basins "under stress".
Agriculture and food processing industries are big water users and have been at the centre of government initiatives to make manufacturing more sustainable generally.
Some in the brewing industry have already begun to lead the way on developing more sustainable practices.
For example, one independent brewer in the UK, George Gale & Co, last year won a government award for its commitment to saving water.
The firm recycled waste water in an automatic cleaning system and collected water required to cool a boiled product for re-use in the next brew. This, it said, made up more than 80 per cent of the total brewing water used.
Dr David Long, director of brewing at the British Beer and Pub Association, said recently that the brewing industry had been a leading light on environmental issues for many years.
The UK brewing industry over-hit its emissions reduction target last year, managing to secure an 80 per cent discount on the government's Climate Change Levy until March 2007.