Environmental and Economic Life Cycle Assessment of Alternative Source Water at Bell’s Brewery, Inc. (2017)

Client Organization: 
Bell’s Brewery, Inc.
Project Location : 
Galesburg, MI, 49053
Summary of Project Idea: 

Goals & Objectives: This project aims to determine the environmental and fiscal consequences of sourcing the required volumes of water for brewing beer in the event that water cease to be available from the local municipality, point of environmental origin (groundwater), or both.

Theoretical Justification, Social Benefit, or Significance: There is a disparity between the market cost and value of reliably available water. As a result strategic long-term planning for risk management becomes a difficult for organizations with a heavy dependency on high quality water. Moreover, there is little incentive, even for environmentally conscious organizations, to invest heavily in projects that conserve or preserve water resources in their operations or local ecosystems.
Better understanding the fiscal and environmental consequences of procuring water from alternative sources will provide organizations with an alternative means to begin valuing and prioritizing pragmatic water projects. It will also allow organizations to determine the best course of action in the event their water source or provider becomes contaminated or unreliable, respectively. Aside from general direction of the type provided by the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER) in their white papers “Managing Water Related Risk” and “Performance in a Watershed Context” little work of this nature is publicly available and none specific to the Kalamazoo Watershed Aquifer is available.

Specific Activities & Duration: The majority of the research will be literature review to identify potential alternative means of procuring water, the life cycle inventory of these alternative approaches, and the impacts associated with said inventory. There may be some need for interviews to determine the capital and operating costs associated with alternative strategies for acquiring water for brewing operations. In order to keep the scope of the work within a 16 month period it will be necessary to restrict the number of alternative strategies to a maximum of 4.

Integrative Approach: A successful project will carefully combine an understanding of the ecological, biochemical, and mechanical requirements of water treatment, water extraction, and civil scale conveyance of water to develop a robust inventory of equipment and operating parameters from which accurate life cycle costs and life cycle assessments can be performed.

Skills/Expertise Needed: 
  • Life Cycle Assessment
  • Water Chemistry
  • Hydraulic Systems Engineering
  • Sustainable Water remediation
  • Ecosystem Service Valuation
  • Sustainable Ground Water Management
  • Life Cycle Cost of Ownership
SEAS Program Areas: 
Conservation Ecology (Aquatic Sciences, Terrestrial Ecosystems, and Conservation Biology)
Sustainable Systems
Role for each program area: 

Conservation Ecology: Collaborates with other team members in the valuation of services provided by the Kalamazoo River Watershed. Will outline the operating parameters for sustainable wellhead management and remediation processes required for the use of local surface water in brewing operations. Will be responsible for advising the team on water chemistry.

Sustainable Systems: Team members will perform the life cycle assessment and life cycle cost of ownership while providing knowledge of water infrastructure systems to the group at large.

Dual Degree Programs: M.S. SNRE and M.S.E. CoE: Collaborates with team members to ensure the systems for the treatment, withdrawal, and/or conveyance of water are accurately sized for the brewery’s operational demand, thereby ensuring accurate costs and life cycle inventories. Works with the Conservational Ecologist to ensure wellhead management and required remediation processes for the use of local surface water in brewing operations are sustainable.

Professional Career Development Benefits: 

Students will acquire hands on experience evaluating the economic and environmental outcomes associated with the acquisition, treatment, and conveyance of water, an increasingly scarce, yet essential resource in sustainable development, agriculture, industry, recreation, and residential sectors. This work will provide the members with an in depth understanding of water use and specifications for brewing processes. The deliverables from this project will be of interest to many breweries in the state of Michigan and potentially beyond. The team can anticipate opportunities to present at regional, if not national conferences hosted by brewer’s guilds, the Master Brewers Association of Americas, and the Brewers Association, in addition to other events organized by stakeholders with an interest in sustainable water management.

Identify expected products/deliverables: 

Deliverables: A completed report, preferably in scientific format. Said report will include at the minimum:

  • an introduction, 
  • explanation of methodologies, 
  • a complete life cycle cost to Bell’s Brewery and life cycle assessment with the endpoints Global Warming Potential, Human Health Effects, and Resource Depletion for three or four scenarios
    • Brewery Production Water Sourced from onsite Bell’s Brewery owned and managed wellheads
    • Brewing Production Water sourced from adjacent municipalities outside the Kalamazoo Watershed.
    • Brewery Production Water Sourced from surface water inside the Kalamazoo Watershed
    • Other, to be determined as team members see fit
  • An economic valuation of ecosystem services provided to Bell’s Brewery by the Kalamazoo River Aquifer.
  • Recommendations on the most pragmatic manner of sourcing water for brewery operations. 

Implementation: Robust results would be used in the development of an internal valuation of water and action plans in the event of a service interruption or ground water contamination. These tools would also inform the future focus of Bell’s water conservation and/or preservation efforts. The team’s findings, if suitable, would be shared with brewers in the region, especially those inside the Kalamazoo River Watershed, the Michigan Brewers Guild, Michigan chapter of the Master Brewers Association of the Americas, and potentially on a national level via the Brewers Association’s Craft Brewers Conference.

Contact full name: 
Walker Modic
Job title: 
Sustainability Manager
State or Country: 
SEAS Faculty Advisor: 
Shelie Miller and Joe Arvai
Contact Phone: 
Contact e-mail: 
Contact information: 
Staff member of a potential client organization
Master Students Involved in Project: 
  • Alexander Engel, MS Sustainable Systems
  • Peter Goodspeed, MS Conservation Ecology/Sustainable Systems
  • Christopher Monti, MS Sustainable Systems 
  • Samhita Shiledar, MS Sustainable Systems 
Project Status: 
Past Project