Ontario Winemakers Embrace Importance of Sustainable Water Practices

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.

Thinking outside the barrel to save money

Thinking outside the barrel to save money

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.

“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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