Scottish whisky distillers commit to cut water use

Image: Vinicius "amnx" Amano, Unsplash

It may be surprising to hear that a country like Scotland, with a reputation for wet weather, is taking extra care of its water resources, but that is the news from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).

The organisation has committed to reducing water use across distilleries' whisky production processes in response to the impact of the climate crisis. Working with its member companies, which account for 97% of Scottish whisky production, the association has published a water stewardship framework, offering research-based guidance as the industry works to improve efficiency and cut water use.

Over 50 bottles of Scottish whisky are exported every second to markets all over the world. Water is one of just three ingredients used – yeast and cereals being the other two - and is used extensively in production and cleaning processes.

The framework encourages a collaborative approach to deliver improvement projects and influence future policy, to ensure the protection and preservation of this vital resource.

"The impact of the climate crisis is already being felt in Scotland’s water supply chain. We have a duty of care to ensure our use of water is as efficient as possible."

Ruth Piggin, SWA

Ruth Piggin, SWA director of industry sustainability, said, “Water is a precious resource which is vital as both an ingredient for making Scotch whisky and a tool in its production. The Water Stewardship Framework is an action-orientated commitment to the industry’s continued work to improve water management, and a serious acknowledgement of the importance of water to nature and the wider environment surrounding industry sites.

“The impact of the climate crisis is already being felt in Scotland’s water supply chain, and while distilleries manage this well, we understand that we have a duty of care to ensure our use of water is as efficient and responsible as possible.

“We’re committed to working closely with stakeholders including SEPA [Scottish Environment Protection Agency], government bodies and other relevant parties, to further improve the industry’s water stewardship.”

Image: Carrie Borden, Unsplash

Nathan Critchlow-Watton, SEPA head of water and planning, said, “Scotland may be renowned for its rain but, as we’ve seen already this year, it can be extremely vulnerable to periods of prolonged, dry weather and with climate change these are expected to become more frequent in the years ahead.

“The businesses that thrive in the face of this challenge will be those that recognise the link between environmental and economic prosperity.

“It’s reassuring to see the whisky industry being proactive, taking their responsibility to help protect Scotland’s water environment seriously, and contributing to its long-term sustainability for all those who depend on it.”