The 10 Coolest Bridges in New England

The Bridge of Flowers, Shelburne Falls, MA

Bridge of Flowers ShelburneBuilt in 1908 by the Shelburne Falls and Colrain Street Railway to transport people and freight to the mills in Colrain, the bridge was already out of use by 1927 when the railway company went bankrupt. However, even though it was no longer being utilized for any type of traffic, the bridge could not be demolished because it carried a water main between the towns of Buckland and Shelburne Falls. After seeing the bridge blanketed in weeds, a woman named Antoinette Burnham was inspired to turn the bridge into a lovely garden, and the community fully supported her whimsical idea. The Shelburne Woman’s Club and other women’s clubs in the town financed the project.

In 1981, the Women’s Club spearheaded a fundraising campaign for bridge repairs and the Club, along with the Towns of Buckland and Shelburne, bridge owner Shelburne Falls Fire District, the Shelburne Falls Area Business Association, and the Franklin County Planning Department, worked together to hire a planner for the project. The engineering study estimated the cost of repairs and restoration to be $580,000, which was raised through fundraising, a Massachusetts Small Cities Community Development Block Grant of $290,000, and appropriation of $100,000 from the Shelburne Falls Fire District. During restoration in 1983, the water main was replaced, and every single plant, tree, and shrub was carefully removed and tended by private citizens.

Today, care of the living bridge is managed by a head gardener, her assistant, and countless local volunteers. The blooming bridge boasts over 500 varieties of annuals and perennials and is open to the public from early spring through late fall.

East Haddam Swing Bridge, CT

East_Haddam_Swing_BridgeConnecting the towns of Haddam and East Haddam, Connecticut via Route 82 over the Connecticut River, the East Haddam Swing Bridge is believed to be the longest swing bridge of its kind in the world. The 881-foot long steel-truss swing, or opening, bridge is constructed of two separate spans that swing open on every half and full hour to allow recreational water vehicles to pass. Officially opened on June 14, 1903, the East Haddam Swing Bridge celebrated its centennial celebration on June 15, 2013 with an antique car parade.

Claiborne Pell Bridge, Newport, RI

Pell bridge newport riConstructed to connect the popular summer tourist town of Newport to Jamestown, RI, the Claiborne Pell Bridge is the largest suspension bridge in New England. Its main span is almost 500 meters, total length is about 3,500 meters, and its main towers stretch over the Narragansett Bay at 120 meters. Originally named the Newport Bridge, the bridge was renamed the Claiborne Pell Bridge in 1992 in honor of United States Senator Claiborne de Borda Pell, who was the longest serving senator from Rhode Island and the force behind the 1973 Pell Grants, which provide financial aid to college students.

Bailey Island Bridge, Harpswell, ME

Bailey_Island_Bridge,_Harpswell,_ME_-_IMG_7897Built in 1927, this unique bridge connecting Bailey Island and Orr’s Island in Maine is constructed of granite blocks stacked atop one another with no mortar — the bridge is entirely held together by gravity. Bailey Island Bridge is, in fact, the only cribstone bridge in the world. Its unique construction lends the bridge incredible strength, allowing it to withstand the fiercest storms with minimal maintenance throughout the years, while still allowing strong currents and tides to easily flow through it. Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, Bailey Island Bridge is a must visit for any local bridge enthusiasts.

Gold Brook Bridge (Emily’s Bridge), Stowe, VT

Emilys Bridge Gold Brook VermontWhile there are many quaint, picturesque covered bridges throughout New England, Gold Brook Bridge is unique among them. Constructed in 1844, the 50-foot long single-lane structure, dark and weathered, is purported to be the home of a less-than-friendly ghost named Emily. There are two tales about Emily, and neither has been confirmed. In one version, the beautiful young woman and her lover made plans to meet at the bridge and elope. When the young man never showed, Emily was so overcome with grief that she tied a length of rope to the bridge rafters and hanged herself. In the other version, Emily and her fiancé planned to marry in the town church. Donning a red dress, Emily waited at the church in vain, as her betrothed never showed. Distraught and angered, Emily fled the church in the family wagon, whipping the horses into a frenzy. As she approached the bridge, she failed to negotiate the turn, sending wagon, horses, and jilted bride into the brook, killing all.

To this day, many local residents swear by Emily’s ghostly existence. There have been many reports of scratches and handprints appearing on vehicles that traverse the bridge at night, and people who are brave enough to venture into the structure on foot have heard screams, laughter, swinging rope, footsteps, and have experienced many technological failures. Cameras turn off, some photos come out blank, and mysterious orbs and images appear in other photos. Females who enter the bridge have felt burning scratches on their arms and backs, and many have seen Emily’s apparition calling for help.

Contoocook Covered Railroad Bridge, Contoocook, NH

Contoocook_Railroad_Bridge_NH-38-5Officially opened in 1850, the Contoocook Covered Railroad Bridge is the oldest of eight surviving covered railroad bridges and four surviving double-web town lattice railroad bridges in the country. The bridge survived a flood in 1936, a hurricane in 1938, and has undergone many repairs and renovations; however, it is still considered to be the most original structure of its type, as the few others remaining have all undergone major structural modifications. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

The New Portland Wire Bridge, New Portland, ME

New portland wire bridge meNestled in a rural setting in central Maine, the New Portland Wire Bridge is believed to be the only remaining wire (suspension) bridge in the nation. Constructed around 1864 to span the Carrabasset River, it has a single lane constructed of wooden planks, original shingle-covered towers and 4-inch steel cables anchored by 30-ton concrete and granite blocks, and a weight limit of three tons. The bridge, last rehabilitated in 2010, is decorated with lights around the holidays and is a popular place to take photos. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.

Keystone Arches, Western MA

keystone arches bridge maTucked away in western Massachusetts stand the first keystone arch railroad bridges built in the nation. With heights up to 70 feet, these amazing structures were completely dry laid in the mid-1800s and designed to carry locomotives of that time, which weighed about 12,000 pounds. Incredibly enough, some of the arches are still in use today but carry locomotives that are about 430,000 pounds – or 35 times heavier than their predecessors. In 1912, parts of the railroad line were relocated, and the bridges that were bypassed have stood in place with absolutely no maintenance since that time. Accessible only by hiking trails, these magnificent arches make an enjoyable daytrip for nature enthusiasts and families.

Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge, Boston, MA

Leonard_P._Zakim_Bunker_Hill_Bridge_-_Boston,_MA_cropDesigned to combine Boston’s historic past with its future, The Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge was named in honor of civil rights activist Lenny Zakim. With its inverted Y-shaped towers that reflect the shape of the Bunker Hill Monument in neighboring Charlestown and its cables that are reminiscent of a ship in full sail, the bridge memorializes Boston’s colonial and shipbuilding history while maintaining a modern, sleek appearance. At 183 feet wide and 1,432 feet long, it is the widest cable-stayed bridge in the world and carries ten lanes of traffic in and out of the bustling city.

Thread City Crossing or “The Frog Bridge”, Willimantic, CT

Willimantic frog bridgeAdmittedly, Thread City Crossing over the Willimantic River in Connecticut is quite unremarkable — save for the four 11-foot tall frogs perched atop massive spools of thread. Affectionately known as The Frog Bridge, the 500-foot structure was built in 2000 and shows that the good folk of Willimantic certainly have a sense of humor. While the spools of thread were incorporated into the design in order to commemorate the Town’s history as a leading thread manufacturer of the 19th and 20th centuries, the frogs were included for a much cheekier reason.

frog bridge willimantic ctIn 1754, the townsfolk of Windham, CT (now Willimantic) were apprehensive and jittery. You see, Windham’s finest had joined Colonel Eliphalet Dyer’s regiment to fight in the French and Indian War, and those left behind were terrified. People slept lightly, with muskets tucked next to their beds, in anticipation of an imminent Indian attack. One very hot summer night, with the Town in the midst of a dreadful drought, the townsfolk were roused by an unearthly sound, described as “a shrieking, clattering thunderous roar.” Some believed the dreaded Indian attack had finally come, while others believed that Judgment Day was upon them. The townspeople ran into the streets, some falling to their knees to pray while others blindly shot their muskets into the night. A group of braver souls went off in search of the marauders, to no avail.

When the sun rose the next morning, the villagers were finally able to see what had caused the “terrifying” commotion. A millpond, two miles east of the village center, had almost completely dried up during the summer drought, and apparently the local bullfrog community had engaged in a turf war to claim ownership of the dwindling water supply. Hundreds of bullfrog carcasses riddled the perimeter of the pond, and, from that day forward, the Town became infamously — and, to the townsfolk, embarrassingly — known as the scene of the “Battle of the Frogs.”

Do you know of any bridges in New England that we should have included on our list? Let us know! We’d love to hear from you.

Water poverty on U.S. soil: why the Navajo Nation water crisis should shame us all

navajo water lady
Darlene Arviso delivers 4000 gallons of clean water to as many families as she can. Photo courtesy Navajo Water Project

CBS Sunday Morning News recently ran a cover story titled ​The Water Lady: A savior among the Navajo about Darlene Arviso, a Saint Bonaventure Indian Mission employee that brings water to Navajo Nation. This story brought to light the fact that 40% of the 173,000 residents of Navajo Nation lack access to clean, safe drinking water. Along with many others in the water industry, we here at Tata & Howard were aghast and aggrieved. After all, we are all very familiar with the 100% improved water and sanitation statistic that America boasts. But if 40% of Navajo Nation lacks improved water, how can this be? We decided to delve a bit deeper into the situation, and what we found was downright shocking.

Water poverty in the United States

First and foremost, the statistic of 100% improved water and sanitation in America is accurate. Navajo Nation, though geographically located on American soil at the four corners of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico, is not technically considered part of the United States of America. In the U.S., Indian reservations have what is called tribal sovereignty, or the inherent authority to govern themselves, and are actually independent nations. They may have their own police forces, elected officials, and courts, and the federal government recognizes these tribal nations as “domestic dependent nations.” This also means that they are not factored into the Clean Water Act or any other EPA ruling — and their numbers don’t count towards American statistics.

navajo nation mapWater poverty in the U.S. is no different than water poverty in Africa. It affects absolutely every aspect of daily life, including physical and mental health, education, and economic viability. Just like African women and children who leave their homes each day to fetch unimproved water that is miles away, thousands of Navajo also make a daily journey in search of water. For the “fortunate” who own cars, they may drive to find water, although the gas expense is almost unbearable for many. For those without vehicles, they must walk miles — just like their African counterparts — to find water, sometimes getting the water from livestock troughs that are rife with bacteria and contaminants, other times getting water from unregulated wells and stock ponds.

But the major difference between the African water crisis and the Navajo water crisis is that the Navajo live on the land of the richest nation on the planet. Chris Halter, director of Saint Bonaventure Indian Mission, has done work in some of the poorest parts of Africa and Latin America. Working in Navajo Nation for the past eight years, he notes, “It’s a third world country in the middle of the wealthiest country in the world.”

Uranium in Navajo water

Post WWII mining contaminated many water supplies with uranium
Post WWII mining contaminated many water supplies with uranium

Not only do the Navajo have to travel for miles to find water, but the water they do find is often contaminated. As a result of the heavy mining that took place in the area during the nuclear arms race following World War II, much of the water found in Navajo Nation is heavily contaminated with uranium or other radioactive particles. After testing 240 unregulated sources on Navajo land, the EPA found that 10% of these sources had radioactive particles exceeding federal drinking water standards. It took decades for residents to learn the truly disastrous effects of this contamination, with family members suffering from kidney ailments and cancer. Prior to WWII, Navajo sheepherders and remote farmers procured water from communal wells close to their homes. But now, with poison snaking through their water supply and environmental officials instructing them to avoid drinking it, they travel hours for water.

The EPA, Indian Health Service, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development have dedicated $27 million to water system upgrades, including improving water quality for homes with existing running water, and adding piping to another 800 homes. However, it becomes prohibitively expensive to add piping to the more remote residences, so the EPA instead has paid for four tanker trucks to bring water to various meeting points once per week. Serving 3,000 homes, these trucks sometimes run dry before everyone has had a chance to receive their allotted water, and sometimes the road to reach the tanker is impassable. Some residents make the four-hour round trip drive to Flagstaff, Arizona to buy bottled water when it goes on sale for such emergencies, while still others do not have enough money for gasoline and have instead simply uncapped wells that have been deemed toxic. Nearly half of the remote residents have been visited by cancer, and tumors and kidney failure are routine ailments for the Navajo.

Gold King Mine spill contaminates Navajo Nation water supplies

Mine waste from the Gold King Mine spill. Source: Jerry McBride—Durango Herald
Mine waste from the Gold King Mine spill. Source: Jerry McBride—Durango Herald

The Gold King Mine spill, which released three million gallons of water contaminated with lead, cadmium, arsenic, and other heavy metals into the Animas River in Colorado on August 5, has caused even further water woes for Navajo Nation. While the contamination is inconvenient for residents of the three states whose water supplies were affected by the spill, the impact to Navajo Nation is disastrous. Navajo Nation residents rely heavily on the water of the now contaminated San Juan River, into which the Animas River flows, for irrigation and livestock. Responding to alerts that the water is now toxic, the Navajo Farming Authority shut off all irrigation and intake points along the river. In the midst of their short farming season, farmers and ranchers are worried about finding ways to irrigate their crops and water their livestock. Clean water storage is being depleted at an alarming rate and Navajo Nation — not the EPA or the U.S. government — has had to shoulder the expense of additional water trucking. Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye is frustrated by the lack of response from the EPA, who, while inspecting the Gold King Mine, actually caused the toxic spill, and he is pleading for answers.

“Bottled water is becoming scarce, and my people want to know what we can drink after the clean supply runs out,” Begaye said. “We’re hauling water from wells outside the disaster area and using our own Navajo Nation funds to run these trucks back and forth. We desperately need help from outside to get good quality, safe drinking water.”

Added Begaye, “We are in the middle of farming season, which is only four to five months of the whole year, and farmers are begging me to help them save their crops, many of which are not fully ripe yet. The revenue from these crops is what our farmers need to live off for the rest of the year, so without irrigation water, they are doomed.”

What we can do to help

africa water crisisThere are countless water charities that have been created in order to provide improved water and sanitation to developing countries. The Gates Foundation,, charity:water, our own charity of choice, Water For People, and countless others all strive towards this lofty goal. But who is helping those suffering from water poverty right here on American soil? Until a few years ago, the answer was nobody — but that has changed.

George McGraw is a human rights lawyer from Los Angeles and the founder of the non-profit DIGDEEP, which also provides water systems to developing countries. One day, McGraw received a phone call from a woman who wanted to make a contribution to DIGDEEP by sponsoring a well — but she had a stipulation. She told McGraw that she wanted her donation to be used in the United States. McGraw thought she was crazy, until she told him about Navajo Nation. And then he was just appalled.

“It really is an incredible injustice,” McGraw said. “If you’re born Navajo, you’re 67 times more likely not to have a tap or toilet in your house than if you’re born black, white, Asian, or Hispanic American.”

navajowaterprojectSo McGraw founded the Navajo Water Project, a subsidiary of DIGDEEP that is dedicated to improving Navajo Nation’s water supply. With the Saint Bonaventure Indian Mission, they are raising funds to dig wells, buy water storage tanks, and install in-home plumbing for those suffering from water poverty in Navajo Nation. In addition, the Navajo Water Project sells Pendleton blankets, where for every purchased blanket, another blanket is donated to a Navajo family and $100 is donated to the Navajo Water Project.

And every little bit helps. Our nation’s claim of 100% improved water and sanitation will not be a reality until every single person living on American soil has access to safe, clean water. The time to make that claim a reality is now. Visit for more information.

UPDATE: Tata & Howard employee-owners recently donated over $2,000 to the Navajo Water Project. Read the press release here.

Tata & Howard Sponsors CTAWWA Golf Tournament to Benefit Water for People

Tata & Howard Sponsors CTAWWA Golf Tournament to Benefit Water for People

Funds raised at the tournament will support efforts to bring safe, clean drinking water to people in developing nations

The 2014 CTAWWA Golf Classic to benefit Water For People was well attended
The 2014 CTAWWA Golf Classic to benefit Water For People was well attended

MERIDEN, CT, August 18, 2015 – Tata & Howard is pleased to sponsor the American Water Works Association, Connecticut Section Golf Classic to be held on September 15, 2015 at the Tunxis Plantation Golf Course and Banquet Facilities in Farmington, CT. Funds raised at the tournament benefit Water for People, a nonprofit improving the quality of life in developing nations by supporting the development of locally sustainable drinking water resources, sanitation facilities, and hygiene education programs.

“Tata & Howard is privileged to sponsor the Golf Classic to benefit Water For People,” stated Stephen K. Rupar, P.E., Vice President and Manager of Tata & Howard’s Meriden, CT office, and Chair of the Connecticut Water Works Association. “We fully support Water For People’s mission to provide a safe and sustainable water supply on a global level.”

Water For People is Tata & Howard’s charity of choice. Employee-owners donate directly from their paychecks and the company matches 100% of every dollar donated in this way. Water For People is also the AWWA designated charity of choice, and is endorsed by the Water Environment Federation, the Water Quality Association, the National Association of Water Companies, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, and the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies.

“There’s a reason that Water For People is the charity of choice for so many organizations involved in the water environment,” noted Salvatore Longo, P.E., Vice President and Manager of Tata & Howard’s Waterbury, CT office. “Their vision to bring clean water to everyone, forever is something that directly reflects on our work — and something in which we all fully believe.”

For more information on the CTAWWA Golf Classic to benefit Water For People, please visit


Does west coast drought affect east coast life? You bet.

USGS drought monitor week of 8.4.15
USGS drought monitor week of 8.4.15

Drought. Every day, there are multiple news stories about the historic drought affecting America’s west and south. In April, Governor Jerry Brown mandated that Californians cut their water usage by 25%. Almond growers are being lambasted for growing a thirsty crop, golf courses are allowing their greens to turn into browns, and aquifers are being depleted at a rate far greater than they are being replenished. The outlook is bleak. Seven states are literally running out of water, and scientists are scrambling to try to address the unprecedented drought.

Yet in the midst of all of this, New Englanders are rather lackadaisical. After all, Lowell, Massachusetts just experienced the snowiest winter on record with an unprecedented 120.6 inches, earning the city the title of “snowiest city in the United States” for the 2014-2015 winter, and the summer has been fairly mild. On August 6, the USGS drought monitor showed a couple of areas of mild drought, but New Englanders have come to expect regular, soaking rains, and nobody seems too concerned. After all, New England isn’t affected by the exceptional drought of the west coast. Or is it?

Extreme Weather on Both Coasts

Newton's Third Law: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction
Newton’s Third Law: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction

Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction; and while the law refers to motion, it can also be applied to weather. The severe drought and high heat of the west is directly related to the cold and snow in the northeast, and both extremes have been attrributed to global climate change. In the period of January to March of 2015, New England experienced its coldest winter on record. Providence, RI, Worcester, MA, and Hartford, CT broke all cold records during that time, while Boston, MA experienced its third coldest winter on record, with its top two coldest periods dating all the way back to the 1800s. On the opposite coast, Sacramento, CA experienced its hottest March on record, with temperatures rising to those that are more typical to May than March. Weather balances the atmosphere, so when an extreme takes place in one geographic location, the opposite extreme will occur somewhere else in the world.

“Ridiculously Resilient Ridge”

Photo Brett Albright/NWS San Diego
Photo Brett Albright/NWS San Diego

Stanford University Ph.D. candidate Daniel Swain, who writes The California Weather Blog, coined the alliterative nickname for the high-pressure area that sits over the eastern Pacific Ocean for months at a time. And, like the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge itself, the name has stuck. The ridge is basically a mountain of air that stalled off the coast of California and British Columbia, causing any storms that would typically hit California to trend farther north instead to the Alaskan panhandle and northward. The trough, just as alliteratively coined the “Terribly Tenacious Trough” by Jennifer Francis, Research Professor at Rutgers University, in turn sat over the east coast, bringing with it unusually cold, wet weather. This weather pattern, which would be typical if it lasted just a short period of time, has been extreme in that it has been incredibly persistent, developing for months at a time since 2012. In addition, climatologists are scratching their heads over it, as there is no clear reason why it has been so persistant.

Economic Impact

This car was almost completely covered after a blizzard in January 2015
This car in Massachusetts was almost completely covered after a blizzard in January 2015

New Englanders took a significant economic hit during the extreme winter of 2014-2015 due to exhausted snow removal budgets, damaged property, and high utility and heating bills. Ice dams and roof issues from the excessive amount of snow caused damage to many homes, and insurance companies are still reeling from the claims processed over the winter, which also included higher than average vehicle and accident claims. Many accidents were attributed to the severe winter and snowfall, and to the gargantuan snow piles that made driving and maneuvering in parking lots even more treacherous. And even more problems ensued when the snow began to melt in the spring.


Flooding is not just caused by extreme rainfall but is in fact influenced by many factors, such as soil conditions and sea level. In the northeast, excessive precipitation, like the record snowfall experienced this past winter, increases soil moisture content, which in turn increases the potential for flooding. In addition, northeast sea levels have risen over a foot since last century, which already puts New Englanders at increased risk for flooding.

Food Supplies

It takes about 400 gallons of water to produce one pound of almonds
It takes about 400 gallons of water to produce one pound of almonds

California grows more food for consumption in the United States than any other state. In fact, nearly half of all the fruits, vegetables, and nuts grown in the entire country are grown in California, and the state is the fifth largest supplier of food in the world. Growing over 450 different crops, California is the exclusive U.S. producer of many crops including almonds, artichokes, clover, dates, olives, pistachios, and raisins. In addition, California also produces almost all of the grapes, lemons, lettuce, and tomatoes grown in the nation.

Prices of these crops have already risen, and are expected to rise even more. 80% of the water used in California is used by farmers and ranchers, and with the exceptional drought, many farmers have had to leave their fields fallow or pay to pump water from the ground. The economic hits to farmers are passed onto consumers, resulting in higher priced produce and nuts for the rest of the nation. If the drought continues, California farmers may be forced out of business, resulting in national food shortages. And over on the opposite coast, Florida experienced freezing temperatures that affected the 2014-2015 orange crop, resulting in the smallest yield of oranges since the 1964-1965 season.

Looking Ahead

"The blob" is a very large area of warm water that scientists are hoping may end the California drought
“The blob” is a very large area of warm water that scientists are hoping may end the California drought

At this time, forecasters are hoping that the extreme drought in California may be coming to an end. The combination of El Nino and “the blob” create a high possibility for a temperate, wet winter in the Pacific Northwest, and California residents and businesses are keeping their fingers crossed — as should New Englanders. Once again referring to Newton’s Third Law, we can safely assume that a mild, wet winter for California would likely produce a mild, dry winter for the east coast. And that is something the whole nation should celebrate.

ASCE Releases App to Take Action on Infrastructure Issues

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 2.32.22 PMThe American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released a new app for Android and iPhone called Save America’s Infrastructure. The app, which was originally released during Infrastructure Week, describes America’s aging infrastructure issues while providing a way to take action by contacting elected leaders directly through the app. Save America’s Infrastructure app offers infrastructure grades, facts on 16 categories, pertinent news, and an action center. Providing easy reference to the 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure grades and state facts, the app is absolutely free to download. It also provides local information, where users are able to input their zip code to learn about deficiencies in their own area.

Key features include the following:

  • State facts and Report Card grades for key infrastructure categories
  • National grades for 16 infrastructure categories
  • Infographics and videos
  • An action center through which users are able to contact relevant state and federal officials
  • A news center

“As stewards of our nation’s infrastructure, civil engineers are the experts on America’s roads, bridges, water pipes, sewers and dams, and we know that these systems are aging,” said Robert D. Stevens, P.E., Ph.D., President of ASCE. “Right now couldn’t be a better time to take advantage of this resource. Congress needs to find a way to fix the Highway Trust Fund with a long-term, sustainable funding source. This app allows people to contact their Senators and Representative and tell them why it matters.”

International Beer Day: Celebrating Water Efficient Breweries

beer samplerIn honor of International Beer Day, we are taking a look at what breweries are doing to conserve the number one ingredient in brewing beer: water. Due to water shortages, increased demand, and heightened awareness, many breweries have taken steps to increase water efficiency and to implement water saving techniques in their brewing. Utilizing a myriad of methodologies and technologies, an increasing number of today’s breweries have begun to focus on brewing beer with water efficiency and conservation at the forefront of their business.

Anheuser-Busch InBev

Anheuser-Busch AgriMetThe undisputed behemoth of the beer world with 25% of the global beer market, Anheuser-Busch InBev has implemented water-saving measures in many ways. Some of its plants use reclaimed water for equipment cleaning, irrigation, firefighting, and other local uses, such as watering a soccer field in Peru and manufacturing bricks in Brazil. And, as would be expected from such an enormous, influential company, Anheuser-Busch InBev is piloting agricultural programs that it hopes will spread to all facets of agriculture. To start, they have initiated a “Smart Barley” program with 2,000 barley growers in Idaho and Montana. Since agriculture accounts for 95% of the water used in beer making, increasing agricultural water efficiency is the key to breweries becoming better water stewards. Utilizing sensors in the field, cooperative programs, and its own hybridized, drought-resistant seeds, Anheuser-Busch InBev hopes to decrease agricultural water usage by 25% over the next two years.

Even before the implementation of its agricultural program, Anheuser-Busch InBev had managed to reduce its water footprint to the point that it now uses less water than any other major brewer. As of this writing, the company uses about 3.2 bottles of water for each bottle of beer, and the industry average is seven bottles of water per each bottle of beer. In fact, from 2013-2014, Anheuser-Busch InBev saved as much water as is used in the manufacture of four billion cans of Budweiser.


Barley requires 237 gallons of water per every pound grown
Barley requires 237 gallons of water per every pound grown

MillerCoors is also a giant in the beer industry with 30% of the American beer market. Like its major competitor Anheuser-Busch InBev, it also has an Idaho-based pilot project called the Showcase Barley Farm in Silver Creek Valley, Idaho. Utilizing precise irrigation techniques and hardier crop planting, MillerCoors is researching the best ways to increase its water efficiency. Already a success in 2011, Showcase Farms saw a 9% reduction in water usage by precision irrigation alone.

MillerCoors has also implemented water efficiency and conservation measures at its breweries such as utilizing recirculated water rather than freshwater for cooling, reusing wastewater for non-potable uses, cleaning cans with ionized air rather than water, sanitizing systems with bleach instead of hot water, and installing waterless lubrications throughout their operations. The water reclamation system in their Milwaukee brewery alone saves 100 million gallons of water per year. The company uses 3.53 bottles of water for each bottle of beer it produces — just a tad more than Anheuser-Busch InBev — but it hopes to slash its water footprint an additional 15% by 2020.

Both Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors have made huge strides towards water efficiency, and because of their massive size, the impact is significant. However, many smaller craft breweries are doing just as much — and in many instances, more — to become water and environmental stewards.

Full Sail Brewing Company

full sail brewing sustainabilityOregon-based Full Sail Brewing Company is fully committed to water conservation. They operate a hot water recovery system that saves over three million gallons of water per year. Employees work four ten-hour days, which saves another three million gallons of water per year. They have installed special filters to maximize malt extract while minimizing water usage, they’ve reduced spray nozzle apertures on bottle and keg washers, and they’ve reduced cooling water usage by adding a glycol chiller in tandem with their heat exchanger. These measures save an additional 4.1 million gallons per year. The result? The forward thinking company uses just 2.5 bottles of water for each bottle of beer produced — the lowest ratio we have found. But they don’t stop there. Full Sail Brewing operates its own voluntary wastewater treatment plant, which reduces the load to the municipal treatment plant by pre-treating the wastewater. In addition, they distribute their treatment plant’s biosolids to local farmers and an orchardist for fertilizer.

Cape Cod Beer

Hyannis, Massachusetts-based Cape Cod Beer utilizes water reclamation and conservation efforts in their brewing, but they take it a step further. Their beers are only sold in refillable kegs or growlers, and they are passionate about recycling. In addition, they donate all used and leftover grain to local farmers for feed or compost, and they were recently certified “Cape & Islands Green” Level 1.

California Brewers

Photo by Kerrie Lindecker The city of cloverdale celebrated The city of cloverdale celebrated the completion of two new wells during a ribbon cutting Monday. Pictured above are: Alan Hodge, water treatment plant operator, Bear Republic Brewery’s Richard Norgrove Jr., Darren Hernandez, senior water treatment plant operator, city councilmember Bob Cox, City Planner Karen Massey, Joanne Cavallari, City Finance Manager, Chamber of Commerce executive director Robin Wilkerson, Bear Republic owner Richard Norgrove Sr., Citrus Fair Queen Amanda Lawson, Reef Atwell with the USDA, Mayor Carol Russell, City Manager Paul Cayler and City Public Works Director Craig Scott
Photo by Kerrie Lindecker
The City of Cloverdale celebrated the completion of two new wells during a ribbon cutting

Bear Republic Brewing Company, whose corporate office and larger brew house are located in Cloverdale, California, actually partnered with the City of Cloverdale to dig two new water wells, which went online last August. Because the City didn’t have the funds for the new wells, Bear Republic prepaid several years of its water fees — $466,000 — in order to allow the city to complete the project on time and under budget. Bear Republic also conducts regular audits for leaks, practices conservation and reclamation in its operations, and is installing a wastewater pre-treatment plant that will generate heat and electricity with the methane it produces as well as reclaimed water for irrigation and cleaning.

In Escondido, California, the nation’s tenth largest craft brewer, Stone Brewing Company, treats all of their brewing wastewater — not to be confused with restaurant or restroom wastewater — with an aerobic digestion and filtration process. The reused water is pure and they use it for cleaning. “From a good brewing practices standpoint, it’s good to watch water usage, especially when you live in a dry area like we do,” explained Mitch Steele, Stone’s Brew master. He also added that they test the reclaimed water frequently and that, if regulations allowed, he wouldn’t hesitate to drink it.

Adding to their already environmentally friendly business practices, both Stone Brewing and Bear Republic have been proactive in sharing their practices and knowledge with the rest of the craft beer community through webinars and on-site tours.

Brewers for Clean Water

So far, over 50 craft breweries, including eight New England breweries, have joined the National Resource Defense Council’s Brewers for Clean Water initiative. The program aims to spread awareness of the Clean Water Act and to support initiatives that protect and conserve our nation’s water. “As we continue to see the craft beer segment grow, we as brewers owe it to the communities we live, work, and play in to be mindful of protecting our waterways as we strive for growth that is environmentally and socially responsible now and down the road,” said Mat Stronger of Allagash Brewing Company, a Portland, Maine-based brewery that is active in the Brewers for Clean Water initiative.

Jester King Brewing with Harvested Rainwater

Jester King's rainwater collection tanks
Jester King’s rainwater collection tanks

Austin, Texas-based Jester King Brewery recently purchased 3,000-gallon rain water collection tanks that will collect rainwater from the roof of both their brewery and adjacent beer hall. They expect to capture an estimated 10,000 barrels of rainwater per year that will be disinfected using ultraviolet and reverse osmosis purification and then be used in their brewing process.

Beer Made with 100% Reclaimed Water

Clean Water Services, a wastewater treatment utility that serves the Portland, Oregon metro area, asked for approval from the state to allow members of the “Oregon Brew Crew” to use recycled sewage water from its Forest Grove plant for beer-making. They received initial approval from the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission and the Oregon Health Authority, but will need further approval for a recycled water reuse plan before forging ahead. Last year, the Oregon Brew Crew produced test batches of beer made from 30% reclaimed water, which met with rave reviews. But, according to the dozen brewers, using 100% reclaimed water will be a more exciting challenge.

“I’m trying to think of a really cool recipe. When they told us 100 percent we’re like oh man, first the names, then the recipe comes later. And I’m excited,” said Lee Hedgmon, president of the Oregon Brew Crew.

Clean Water Services believes that educating the public about recycled water will lead to its ultimate acceptance, and they don’t think there’s any better way to start that conversation than with beer.

Sewage Beer


Really. It’s called Activated Sludge, has a radiation symbol on its label, and is brewed with purified Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District wastewater plant effluent that has NOT gone through the final cleaning process typically necessary for potable reclaimed water.

Theera Ratarasarn, a wastewater engineer with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, enjoys home-brewing beer to relax after his two young sons have gone to bed. After doing some thinking, he decided he wanted to raise awareness of the quality of plant effluent, and figured the best way to do so was with his evening hobby.

“I wanted to get people talking,” he said “There’s a potential use for what we discharge into lakes and streams.”

Ratarasarn filtered, treated, distilled, and tested the water before beginning to make five gallons of his Activated Sludge, a wheat ale with 5.15% alcohol by volume. And then came the true test. Ratarasarn presented his sewage brew to a taste panel at Lakefront Brewery, where Activated Sludge competed against Lakefront Wheat Monkey. The result? “It’s one of the better home brews I’ve ever had,” stated Mitchel De Santis, who graded the beer a seven out of ten.

“Everybody I talk to wants one,” added Ratarasarn.

Brewing Up Water Efficiency

Breweries are some of the largest consumers of water, yet have proven that they are some of the most active conservationists. We’ve heard it before: everyone loves beer, so it is an easy way to spread awareness, start conversation, and implement efficiency and conservation techniques. While we may not be drinking sewage beer any time soon, we can all agree that U.S. breweries are doing their part in the water conservation effort — and that’s something to which we can raise a toast. Happy International Beer Day!