Xylem Has Turned Berlin’s Toilet Water Into Beer

Water technology company Xylem hopes the stunt will encourage societies to become more comfortable reusing wastewater.

09.09.2019 | by Christy Romer
Photo by Xylem on Twitter
Photo by Xylem on Twitter

One of the victims of the accelerating climate crisis is our global water supply. As the world heats up, there’s simply not enough water for all of us all of the time. News reports are awash with communities in places like Sao Paolo and the Ganges struggling for access to water in months of prolonged drought.

We need to think smarter about how we use and re-use our most precious resources. And as it’s not always financially or ethically justifiable to import clean water from other places, we need to start looking elsewhere for hydration.

Perhaps at our own toilet water.

As proof of how well this can work, water technology company Xylem worked with a water treatment plant in Berlin, serving over a million residents, on a new project to prove that treated wastewater can be safe. Even delicious.

The outcome was Reuse Brew, a beer made from formerly faeces-drenched water.

A series of treatment machines cleanse the water, including coal, sand, and carbon filters. A special ‘ozone’ filter then clears out the biggest challenge: pharmaceutical residues from society’s increased use of medications.

Once this is done, the water — free of “99.999% of all pollutants and chemicals” — was brewed into a traditional German Altbier. The German Ministry of Health and local universities ran stringent tests on the results, and after they were deemed safe, the beer was presented at a local conference on water.

One journalist described the bottle as a “malty brown ale” with a “nice balance of hops and carbonation.”

The sustainability angle is something Joe Vesey, Xylem’s Chief Marketing Officer, was keen to highlight. He told cnet that while there’s always more people on earth, water is a “fixed, scarce resource.”

He added that there was no such thing as “new water” — it had all been consumed and cleaned by someone else at some point.

“The idea to turn wastewater into industrial water isn’t new,” adds his colleague Jens Scheideler, Xylem’s Global Reuse Manager, in an explanatory video. “Wastewater is a resource that can even be used to brew high-quality beer. And we think that beer is the perfect medium to spread this message in Germany.”

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