Winery wastewater is good for the grapes

Researchers at the University of California, Davis have shown that winery wastewater could be used to irrigate vineyards under the right conditions, thus reducing the water footprint considerably.

California’s record-breaking drought, now in its fourth year, has hit the agriculture industry hard, and California’s famed vineyards have not been spared. Researchers at the University of California, Davis wanted to find out if winery wastewater – the water left over from cleaning bottles, barrels and floors – could be treated and reused to irrigate vineyards.

The researchers assessed winery wastewater samples over a two-year period at 18 wineries in the Napa and Lodi regions of California to determine precisely what is in the wastewater and how it should be treated before it is put on the grapes. They found that most wineries in the study were already doing a good job treating the wastewater through various methods but that salinity remains a challenge.

Salts, which are usually introduced into the wastewater by cleaning agents, are not easily removed by treatment systems. But as the study found, the levels of salts at the wineries were usually below the thresholds for most wine grape rootstocks and soil salinity hazards. The wine industry is also moving towards potassium-based cleaners.

As lead author and UC Davis researcher Maya Buelow explains, their research goes well beyond the wind industry: “This is very applicable to nearly every agricultural system out there.” Many other segments of the food industry produce significant amounts of wastewater, such as dairy, pig, poultry and food processing operations, all of which have opportunities to reuse wastewater.


Photo credit: James Daisa, flickr/Creative Commons

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