What about the water footprint?

Water as a renewable resource is one of the great concerns today, mainly for two reasons: we cannot live without it and it is in crisis, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) warns that water scarcity affects more than 40% of people and this risk is projected to rise.

When it comes to water, the figures for the environmental impact of the food industry change drastically. The EAT-Lancet Commission states that 70% of all global water withdrawals are used for food production. But not all foods used the same amount of freshwater in their production. A good indicator to know how much water is used for a given product is the water footprint. In their article Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers, J. Poore and T. Nemecek show that milk requires as much as 623 liters of freshwater per liter of the finished product meanwhile 1 kg of apples takes 180 liters of freshwater. Researchers gave us the numbers; it is our turn to act and make educated choices.

Tequila is not an exemption from water-intensive production. The Tequila Regulatory Council (CRT) in collaboration with the Mario Molina Centre concluded that to produce 1 liter of Tequila 40% alc. Vol. is required 15 liters of fresh water on average. However, the impact on the freshwater resource does not end in consumption. According to the article Tequila vinasses: generation and full-scale treatment processes, during the distillation process, a high pollutant by-product is created, namely vinasse. Vinasse (Figure 1) is characterized by high levels of organic and inorganic matter, high temperature (90 °C), and low pH (3.0–4.5), which causes deterioration of the limited freshwater availability in Mexico. Therefore, it is frightening that 10-12 L of polluted water (vinasses) are generated for each liter of Tequila and 80% of the vinasse produced in the Tequila Industry is thrown away without making sure the parameters are like those found in the natural water bodies. (Figure 2).

Figure 1 Storage Vinasse after the distillation process.

Figure 2 Vinasse placed in the environment will move to near water bodies and finally, nature.

The Tequila Industry should propose actions on both freshwater consumption and vinasse production. As a Tequila lover, understanding the water footprint of Tequila can help to find the Tequila that has the least possible negative impact on the environment, by proposing a solution to clean (treat) vinasse to return it to water bodies without endangering local life.

Buen Vato focus to reduce the carbon footprint as much as possible. We work closely with the producer to implement actions that aim to reduce the vinasse problem, by making them safe for life in the surrounding areas. All this considered, Buen Vato is here to redefine the way Tequila is made.

References

Willett, J. Rockström, B. Loken, M. Springmann, T. Lang, S. Vermeulen and e. al., “Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems”, The LANCET commissions, vol. 393, no. 10170, pp. 447-492, 2019.

Poore and T. Nemecek, “Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers”, Science, vol. 360, pp. 987-992, 2018.

Mario Molina Center; CRT, “Sustainability Strategy for the Agave-Tequila Production Chain”, Mario Molina Center, 2016.

López-López, G. Davila-Vazquez, E. León-Becerril and e. al., “Tequila vinasses: generation and full scale treatment processes”, Reviews in Environmental Science and Bio/Technology, 2010.

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