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Kudos to Cave Spring for Award-Winning Excellence in Environmental Innovation

Cave Spring Cellars, a recognized leader in sustainable winemaking operations, is the well-deserved recipient of a prestigious 2016 Premier’s Award for excellence in environmental innovation.

Cave Spring received the honour for becoming Canada’s first winery – and the country’s first food and beverage processor – to install the BioGill wastewater management system.

MPP Jim Bradley with Dave Hooper of Cave Spring Cellars

MPP Jim Bradley with Dave Hooper of Cave Spring Cellars

“We put a lot of pride and commitment into producing excellent wine, and we recognize that our customers care about the environment as much as we do, “ said Cave Spring owner Len Pennachetti in a news release. “It simply makes sense to better manage our resources. It saves us money and protects the environment.”

In 30 years since opening in the Village of Jordan, Cave Spring has grown from producing 2,000 cases per year to more than 70,000. Operations Manager Dave Hooper said little attention was paid to water management practices as the business expanded.

“That’s a key part of our sustainable winemaking culture today. We now have a much better understanding on the ‘ins, outs and in-betweens’ of integrated water management, especially when it comes to keeping solids out of our drains,” Hooper said.

The Regional Municipality of Niagara encourages wineries like Cave Spring to implement on-site water management solutions. It greatly reduces odours and the costs of treating high-strength wastewater at their centralized plants, and helps to defer capital investments in municipal water infrastructure.

water-and-wine-logoThis innovation was borne out of a pilot project completed in 2015 and is part of the award-winning Water & Wine initiative BLOOM is delivering in collaboration with the Wine Council of Ontario. The Water & Wine portal provides wineries with practical resources, tools and instructional videos they can use to improve their water use and management practices.bloom-logo

“We know there is a strong desire among Ontario winemakers to be good water stewards,” said Kevin Jones, President and CEO of BLOOM.

“Cave Spring is a role model for all wineries looking to implement practical and affordable water management solutions. I congratulate Cave Spring for its commitment to ‘walking the talk’ for this well-deserved Premier’s Award. ”

Jim Bradley, the Ontario MPP for St. Catharines who presented the Premier’s Award to Dave Hooper, agreed that the Cave Spring results will have an impact across the province.

“Cave Spring Cellars is to be commended for this ground-breaking project. I wish you well as this system serves as a positive example to other food and beverage processing businesses in our province, “Bradley said in a statement.

The annual Premier’s Awards for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence are Ontario’s highest honour for outstanding contributions in innovation to the province’s agri-food sector.

Managing Wastewater at Source Would Be a Win-Win for Municipalities and the Food and Beverage Sector

The old way of handling wastewater from industry in Ontario municipalities is not working, and smaller businesses in particular need solutions to manage the problem ‘at source’ that are affordable and can be practically implemented.

That was a consensus reached during a recent Canadian Water Summit panel discussion on the adoption of on-site and sustainable water solutions in Ontario’s wine and craft beer sectors.

“These are consumer-driven businesses, operating in communities where they want to be good neighbours,” said moderator Kevin Jones, CEO and president of The BLOOM Centre for Sustainability. “The consumers want this and the processors understand that. But they need support to increase their knowledge and know-how, to manage and resolve their water issues on- site.”

Canadian Water Summit Panel

Moderator Kevin Jones asks the “Beer and Wine” panel how municipalities can help business reduce wastewater at source.

Panelist Dan Unkerskov, head brewer at Lake of Bays Brewing Company, said small breweries tend to focus on making beer and don’t pay enough attention to water use or wastewater strength.

That has to change, he said, for the good of the environment and the reputation of the business.

“The people who step up are the people who will step ahead,” Unkerskov said.

“Everybody is more in touch with the environment and we have to be good corporate citizens. It’s important to do the right thing.”

Jones said the right thing also means municipalities understanding the financial benefits they can realize by having food and beverage processors implement on-site water solutions. That would reduce their cost of treating high strength wastewater at their centralized plants and defer capital investments in new capacity.

“Municipalities do a great job encouraging craft brewers to set-up shop locally,” Jones said. “They see new opportunities to create jobs, tax revenues, revitalize neighbourhoods, and so on. But when it comes to wastewater, there is an opportunity to change the status quo of pouring it down the drain and we’ll charge you to treat it.”

“Some municipalities also have to stop looking at wastewater treatment facilities as a source of revenue,” said water panelist Derek Davy of ECONSE Water Purification Systems.

The expertise and technology to reduce, treat and manage water on-site is available, practical and affordable, said Davy, who develops on-site solutions that can meet the needs of industry.

“Industry leaders have to take responsibility for problems they are creating,” he said. “And municipalities have to work with them to clean up their act before stuff goes down the drain and to the treatment centres.”

“It’s going to take real leadership to implement positive changes.”

“The people who step up are the people who will step ahead.”
– Dan Unkerskov, Lake of Bays Brewing Company

That begins with municipalities bringing water into the conversation early, said Nick Reid, executive director, Ryerson Urban Water and a managing partner of Water Canada magazine. And that’s especially true with wineries and the new craft breweries popping up everywhere in Ontario.

“Wineries and breweries have to be made aware of the impact they have on communities with water use,” Reid said. “But in return, municipalities should know about on-site solutions and practices that can reduce water use and minimize discharge of high strength wastewater for treatment at their treatment plants.”

“This is a challenge but it’s also an opportunity,” said Jones, adding that keeping stuff out of the drain through better practices and the right on-site technology solutions is more beneficial and cost-effective than levying environmental penalties or surcharges for end-of-pipe treatment at municipal facilities.

A growing craft brewery can unknowingly place a strain on their local community’s wastewater treatment system. This can become even a bigger problem if the brewery is located in a small town with limited infrastructure.

“The typical mindset in small breweries is to just turn on the hose and wash it all down the drain,” said Unkerskov. “Growth is a good thing but growing our wastewater volumes is not. There’s less tolerance for that now.”

For its part, Lake of Bays invested $250,000 in a centrifuge to recover beer in the spent yeast from the fermentation tank. The added benefits of keeping stuff from going down the drain with the wastewater are dollar savings and good neighbourly relations.

Unkerskov said brewers would rather pay to manage their own waste on-site then pay surcharges to the municipality. He urged local governments to partner with craft brewers, and provide financial assistance with investments in clean water technology.

The big breweries also see the merit in meeting community demands to be environmentally conscious.

“Craft has that close-to-consumer element and it matters what people think in the community”, said water panelist Jamie MacKinnon, Global Sustainability Senior Manager of Molson Coors. “Consumers like the millennials are more conscious. They’re looking at what companies are doing. We can learn from that.”

BLOOM’s role is to help food and beverage processors adopt better practices to conserve water and manage their wastewater on-site. The non-profit agency has developed two online portals Water & Beer and Water & Wine that make it easier for craft breweries and wineries to improve their water management performance.

Cave Spring Cellars worked with BLOOM and took a major “leap of faith” by first piloting, and then investing in an innovative on-site wastewater treatment system in 2015. The investment was significant but the improvements today will serve the winery well for years to come.

Panelists Dave Hooper, Cave Spring, and Dan Unkerskov, Lake of Bays

“It’s important to do the right thing.” Panelists Dave Hooper, Cave Spring, and Dan Unkerskov, Lake of Bays

“I don’t want to be messing around with wastewater 20 years from now,” said Dave Hooper, operations manager at Cave Spring Cellars winery and another panelist at the Water Summit. “We did this to get ahead of the curve and we’re going to start seeing more wineries having a look at what we’ve done.”

BLOOM supported Cave Spring’s initiative and leadership. Jones said the best way to move forward collectively is with government-business partnerships and a mandate for change.

These “Collective We” collaborations would provide:

  • Awareness, education and training
  • Pilots and demonstrations
  • Funding assistance programs

A model for civic collaboration in sustainability is the City of Guelph, recognized as a national leader in water conservation and wastewater management.

Because Guelph relies entirely on the underground aquifer for its water supply, the local government made it a top priority to preserve both the quantity and quality of its water.

“This is a challenge but it’s also an opportunity.”
– Kevin Jones, BLOOM Centre for Sustainability

The Ontario city offers financial incentives and technical services to area businesses, which includes food and beverage processors like Sleeman Breweries, to reduce their carbon footprint and encourage water efficiency and conservation.

Since 2006, Guelph’s investment in water conservation programs has cost $8.6 million. But that has allowed the city to defer more than $35 million in additional water and wastewater infrastructure.

Overall, local tax payers are saving more than $470,000 annually.

“Shared knowledge on sustainability and funding assistance for on-site water management would go a long way to ensuring a rewarding and clean working relationship between local industries and their communities,” said Reid.

Derek Davy of ECONSE agrees that getting municipalities and industry to think about water use and wastewater management is a simple but critical first step towards resolving water problems on-site instead of sending them “away” to end-of-pipe municipal treatment centres.

“Simple to me is a “win-win-win” for everyone,” Davy said.

“The industrial partner wins because they reduce costs and are a good neighbour in their community. The community wins because they don’t have to subsidize treatment and burden their infrastructure. And ultimately the environment wins because a whole lot less bad stuff is going down the drain.”

Ontario Winemakers Embrace Importance of Sustainable Water Practices

An overwhelming majority of wineries in Ontario recognize the value of water and how sustainable water management practices can improve winery operational performance, reduce costs and support growth, a recent survey of Ontario wineries found.

The 2016 survey, conducted by the BLOOM Centre for Sustainability, showed that 94 per cent of Ontario wineries believe improved water management practices are important or very important to their business operations.

“It’s clear that winery owners and operators in Ontario identify water as a valuable resource that should not be taken for granted,” said Kevin Jones, CEO of BLOOM, a non-profit agency that provides practical and affordable sustainability solutions for Ontario’s food and beverage sectors. ”Ontario wineries are increasingly recognizing that good water management practices can greatly benefit their operations.”

The summer drought of 2016 has hammered home the message for all Ontarians to preserve water. Winery owner Norm Hardie said a water shortage would be particularly devastating to the province’s wine industry.

“We have a beautiful harmony of water where we are in Prince Edward County and it’s important to keep it that way,” Hardie told BLOOM. “There were times that we ran out of water and had to bring water in. It’s almost like running out of air. Everything stops if you don’t have water.”

“Everything stops if you don’t have water.”
– Norm Hardie, Norman Hardie Winery

The Wine Council of Ontario, which represents over 100 wineries in Ontario, said the BLOOM survey confirms that its members are as serious about the environment as they are about making quality wines.

“Ontario wineries understand the importance of water usage in winemaking, and recognize that sustainable water management can increase profitability while also protecting the environment,” said Richard Linley, President of the WCO. “BLOOM’s survey results clearly show that Ontario winemakers want to find sustainable water solutions that will improve the future growth and prosperity of their industry.”

“About 95 percent of winemaking is cleaning stuff. You need clean water to clean stuff,” said Tim Kuepfer, owner of Broken Stone Winery in Hillier, Ont. “We all share the same aquifer and if I start using too much water it’s going to impact my neighbour. I don’t want to do that. I want to be a good neighbour.”

More than 90 percent of the wineries surveyed said they have taken or will take actions to become more water efficient. The top three actions would include quantifying their total water consumption, implementing better water practices and using dry cleaning techniques.

The BLOOM survey also revealed that 63 per cent of Ontario wineries will take steps to monitor water use within the next year. That’s up from 55 per cent of wineries in a 2013 survey.

Actions Wineries Have Taken / Plan to Take

“That’s where improved water management practices begin to pay off, with the monitoring and measuring of all water use and wastewater generation in the winery’s operation,” said Michael Fagan, senior vice-president of BLOOM. “Proper monitoring provides an accurate accounting of water coming in and going out – this becomes a starting point that allows wineries to implement practical ways to save water and reduce wastewater costs.”

Using water meters helps quantify water consumption

Using water meters helps quantify water consumption

In follow-up interviews with more than 30 respondents to the BLOOM survey, winery owners and operators cited an overall reduction in water use and wastewater costs as the greatest benefits of improved water management practices.

Additional benefits include time savings, reduced operational problems, good community relations and enhanced brand reputations.

Benefits Experienced by Wineries

BLOOM launched Water & Wine in 2015 to raise awareness of water issues within Ontario’s wine industry.  The online portal provides wineries with practical solutions they can implement to reduce water consumption and manage wastewater.

The BLOOM survey indicates that wineries are pleased to have easy access to this information:

  • 75 per cent have visited or are planning to visit Water & Wine
  • 94 per cent that have visited Water & Wine are satisfied or very satisfied with the content

Cave Spring Cellars recently tackled its water management challenges after a series of personal consultations and a pilot project with BLOOM. Faced with odour issues and increased wastewater surcharges, Cave Spring installed an innovative solution to its problems with help from Growing Forward 2 (GF2), a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.

“How do we get technology and ideas, and more importantly how do we get the solutions to the people who have a problem? BLOOM is that link. They’re linking people with solutions to people with problems,” said Dave Hooper, Cave Spring’s winery operations manager.

An example of where wineries can save significant time and money is in barrel washing and sanitation. That process can generally use large amounts of water.

Southbrook Vineyards is renowned for its organic wines as well as its sustainable management practices. The Niagara-on-the-Lake winery is taking direct action to reduce its water consumption with an innovative water-efficient procedure to eliminate the need for the double-washing of wine barrels.

Thinking outside the barrel to save money

Thinking outside the barrel to save money

“We have significantly reduced the amount of water, time, and energy that goes into barrel maintenance simply by embracing a natural approach to winemaking that is gentler on the wine and on the environment,” said Ann Sperling, director of winemaking and viticulture at Southbrook.

Flat Rock Cellars is another winery lauded as one of the most environmentally conscious and forward-thinking in the province.

Like Sperling, Flat Rock winemaker Jay Johnston also reduced water consumption at his winery in Lincoln, Ont., with a more efficient operating procedure to wash and sanitize his wine barrels.

“In an industry where water use is so prevalent, it is important to try and do better. When you are more water efficient, there are time saving and economic benefits as well,” said Johnston.”

“It is important to try and do better.”
– Jay Johnson, Flat Rock Cellars winery

Hooper said there is a genuine movement in the Ontario winery sector to assume the role of environmental stewards. That’s coupled with a growing awareness of the time and money that can be saved through proper water resource management.

“The survey backs that up,” said BLOOM’s Kevin Jones. “Collectively we recognize that increased adoption of sustainable water practices by Ontario wineries will enhance the future growth and prosperity of Ontario’s wine industry. It’s a win-win for the wineries and their local communities.”

This project is also funded by Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.

For more information on the BLOOM 2016 winery survey and the Water & Wine initiative, please contact:

Kevin Jones
President & CEO
BLOOM
905-842-1115 x228
kjones@bloomcentre.com

Richard Linley
President
Wine Council of Ontario
905-562-8070 x225
richard.linley@winecouncilofontario.ca

About Water & Wine: a practical online platform designed to meet the water needs of Ontario winemakers. Water & Wine is the ‘go to’ resource for wineries who recognize that water management is important for their business, their customers and their communities.  BLOOM developed Water & Wine in collaboration with the Wine Council of Ontario, individual wineries, government agencies, and technology and solution providers – what BLOOM calls the Collective We.

About BLOOM: Making it Easier. Clean and Simple. BLOOM is a recognized and trusted authority on sustainability and resource management practices in Ontario. BLOOM works actively with Ontario industries to find practical and affordable business solutions that deliver economic, environmental and social benefits.  Follow BLOOM on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.

About WCO: The Wine Council of Ontario is a non-profit trade association representing over 100 wineries from across the province. WCO members are independently owned small and medium sized enterprises – grape growers, manufacturers and leaders in tourism in their communities.

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Southbrook Vineyards approach to water management in barrel cleaning

Our last blog post was about how Flat Rock Cellars improved the efficiency of their barrel cleaning process by measuring what they were doing, making improvements and then verifying the results. But what if you want to skip all that and just dive right in to the most efficient process you can?

We spoke with Ann Sperling from Southbrook Vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake about their approach. Sustainability and water management have always been a priority at Southbrook. They produce wine that is certified organic and biodynamic, built the first LEED Gold winery building in Canada, harvest rainwater for use in the vineyard, and utilize an engineered wetland and naturalized landscaping to manage wastewater and stormwater. So it should come as no surprise that the procedures Southbrook uses to maintain their barrels are the most water efficient ones we’ve come across.

The first line of defense against excess water use is to keep barrels filled with wine as often as possible. When wineries store barrels, they typically wash and sanitize them both before and after storage. By refilling barrels within a few days of being emptied, Southbrook eliminates the need for double-washing.

When Southbrook empties a barrel that is to be refilled with the same varietal, the barrel is emptied and allowed to drain. And then…nothing. The barrel is filled without washing. Zero water. While winemakers who do not share Southbrook’s natural and non-interventionist philosophy to winemaking may have trouble giving up that control, Sperling has embraced the complexity it imparts to their vintages and Southbrook’s many awards can attest to the quality wine she produces.

Similarly, when barrels do need to be put into storage, they are drained, but the wine residue is left on the surface of the barrel. The idea being that the low pH and alcohol content of the wine residue, combined with burning a sulfur wick every 6 weeks, provides sufficient protection. When the barrels are taken out of storage they are inspected to determine the amount of washing that is required and whether ozone sanitation is necessary. Between 30 to 50 litres of water is used to clean each barrel coming out of storage.

Southbrook has managed to significantly reduce the amount of water, time, and energy that goes into barrel maintenance by challenging the status quo and embracing a natural approach to wine making that is not just gentler on the wine, but gentler on the environment as well.

We have added Southbrook’s example as a new case study within Water & Wine’s section on Barrel Cleaning. Please visit the module on Reducing Water Consumption and Wastewater Strength for more ideas on how to improve water efficiency in your winery.

Use less water by reviewing barrel cleaning

Barrels are one of the most iconic symbols of winemaking, and their care and use is probably the subject of more discussion than any other single piece of equipment used by winemakers. So, how can you use less water, but still have barrels that will last and produce high quality and great tasting wine?

When we were developing the content for Water & Wine it became apparent that while both the cleaning  and hydration of barrels are major users of water, there weren’t any standard procedures that wineries could seem to agree upon. An approach adopted by one winemaker could be shunned by another. Given this, we figured the best strategy was to provide wineries with different examples of how others are cleaning barrels using less water, and some instructions on how wineries can examine their own procedures to find efficiencies.

Flat Rock Cellars in Jordan, Ontario provides a good example of how wineries can go about optimizing their procedures.

Using less water matters

Flat Rock's commitment to the environment is a driver to use less water

Flat Rock Cellars

Flat Rock’s commitment to the environment goes well beyond maintaining one of the most picturesque wineries in Niagara. They have embraced an approach to sustainable winemaking as a key part of their environmentally conscious culture. This includes  geothermal heating and cooling, gravity flow winemaking and low-impact viticulture to better manage their water and energy resources. Flat Rock relies on a well for the majority of their water supply and they treat this as a precious resource. By using water more efficiently, they can avoid trucking in municipal water (which is costly and contains high levels of chlorine) to supplement their well supply.

Flat Rock recognized that cleaning and hydrating barrels takes a lot of water and time, so any improvement they could make to become more efficient would lead to immediate paybacks and benefits. Given the investment barrels represent to a winery, they also needed to be sure any changes in their care would not have negative impacts or unintended consequences.

Figuring out how to use less water

They began by getting data by measuring how much water was being used to clean a barrel. Flat Rock’s well water first passes through a Reverse Osmosis (RO) treatment system. It is then stored in large polyethylene tanks. They are able to track the water level in the tanks before and after a barrel cleaning session to estimate the volume used. (For more information of how to measure water use visit the Water & Wine module on Water Use Monitoring)

Use less water to clean barrels with impingement nozzlesnozzles

Cleaning a Barrel with a Gamajet Nozzle

Then they began manually timing each barrel wash cycle to determine the shortest amount of time the water could be run while still achieving proper cleanliness. Using hot pressurized water helped break down lees and tartrates quicker and ozone provided an efficient means of sanitation. After adjusting the timing of each step, they had to wait a few months to make sure the barrel remained damp and clean. Eventually they settled on a 5 minute hot water rinse using a 360 Gamajet fitting followed by 1 minute rinse with ozonated water.

One of the biggest challenges they faced during this process was the amount of time it took to verify if a barrel was “clean enough” using a sight and smell approach. Swab testing of barrels might have been able to help in this regard, but would have incurred additional costs and would still take time to get results.

Savings go beyond water

As a result of this process, Flat Rock was able to use less water in barrel cleaning and maintenance by 15 per cent. Treating and trucking in less water means saving money and less concern about chlorine. More efficient barrel cleaning procedures also means that staff can do other things since they’re spending less time with barrels.

This structured approach to measuring and gathering information on how much water you’re are using, finding efficiencies and better ways of doing it, and verifying results can be applied by any winery regardless of size, and can have a big impact on your operations.

Have you found ways to use less water to maintain barrels? Please share your experience in the comments below.