As a brewer in the Delaware River watershed, the success of my business and livelihood depend directly on the Delaware River. We try all kinds of techniques, ingredients, and processes to make sure our beers are the furthest away from water that they can be. What I mean is: How do you insult a beer? You call it watery or say it tastes like water. But at the end of the day, our beers are 90 percent made of water, so we heavily rely on access to a plentiful source. This is a key reason I chose to join the new Brewers for the Delaware River Association that the National Audubon Society launched last month — to be a committed steward of the environment in our own backyard.
Unfortunately, many people don’t know just how important the Delaware River watershed is or even that they live in it. To name a few of its benefits, the watershed provides clean, reliable drinking water for 15 million people, drives more than $25 billion annually in economic activity, and contributes 600,000 jobs and $10 billion in annual wages to the economy — including the booming craft beer industries in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, and Delaware.
Just last month, Congress passed legislation allocating $6 million for restoration efforts in the watershed, which will contribute to grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for on-the-ground conservation projects to combat issues like habitat degradation and invasive species. That’s a big win for our Atlantic states that depend on the watershed for clean water and hundreds of thousands of jobs. But for a river that produces $10 billion in wages every year, we need a significant increase in annual investment. In fact, the National Audubon Society and partners are asking for $10 million this year to protect the water and environment these jobs need.
I’m familiar with brewers out west in the Colorado River basin who have had to keep digging their wells deeper and deeper, or to buy contracts for additional water. While we’re fortunate to live and brew in a region where we can turn on the tap and get the clean water we need, we’re not without threat of losing a reliable water source from pollution or overuse. We can’t do business — or live — without clean water.
At Flying Fish Brewing Co., we made a commitment to become the most sustainably focused brewery in the region, because we realized we can’t take this incredible resource for granted. Whether it’s recapturing steam that allows us to generate one gallon of water for every five brewed, or recycling cooling and rinsing water to get multiple uses from the same gallon, we are always looking for ways to reduce our usage.
Keeping the Delaware River watershed healthy and a reliable clean water source is necessary for the growth of small business owners and the craft beer industry in the region, as well as the more than 15 million people that rely on the watershed to live. We hope Congress continues to recognize the importance of preserving this watershed by increasing funding for restoration efforts moving forward.
By being responsible stewards of our watershed, we can help ensure the centuries-old tradition of brewing in our region continues to thrive and keeps beers, and our economy, flowing. Cheers.
Gene Muller is the founder of Flying Fish Brewing Co. in Somerdale.