San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, Anchor Brewing and Cambrian collaborate on water reuse project

Nov. 2, 2021
The project at the brewery will significantly reduce water usage while having the capacity to recycle 20 million gallons of water annually.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, Mayor London N. Breed, Anchor Brewing Company, Cambrian, actor Edward Norton and other officials recently celebrated an innovative new water reuse project at the flagship San Francisco brewery. The initiative will significantly reduce Anchor’s water usage and have the capacity to save 20 million gallons of water per year, making it the largest commercial water reuse project in the history of San Francisco.

“As one of San Francisco’s oldest and most revered businesses, we knew we could depend on Anchor to pursue sustainable and responsible water use practices,” said Mayor Breed. “It is fitting that Anchor is finalizing this water recycling system at a time when these kinds of initiatives are so important. As we face an uncertain future due to drought and climate change, businesses like Anchor are showing how we can adapt to the times.”

Breweries typically need five to seven gallons of water to produce one gallon of beer, with much of that water being used for rinsing bottles and cleaning equipment. This type of water, also known as process water, can be collected and reused on-site at the brewery.

The new water reuse system created by Cambrian for the Anchor brewery will treat 100% of process water at the brewery, with a capacity to recycle up to 20 million gallons of water annually — the yearly equivalent of some 1,300 San Francisco residents.

The Cambrian water treatment facility has been approved by the SFPUC, and following final commissioning processes, the project is anticipated to start realizing those water savings by January 2022.

“With the help of a grant from our agency, Anchor is paving the way for what breweries can accomplish in San Francisco,” said SFPUC Acting General Manager Michael Carlin. “We are proud to support this great partnership with Anchor Brewery, which lays a blueprint for how San Francisco is using innovation and ingenuity to address our water challenges. This is the kind of project we envisioned when we created a water recycling program specifically for San Francisco breweries.”

The SFPUC provided a $1 million grant to Anchor to help install its innovative water recycling system. The funding came from the agency’s Onsite Water Reuse Grant Program, which encourages our retail water users to reduce the use of drinking water by collecting, treating, and using water on-site for non-drinking uses. Since the program was launched, the SFPUC has provided five grants totaling $2.25 million, resulting in nearly 38 million gallons of water saved annually.

In 2018, the SFPUC established a water recycling program specifically for breweries, since the facilities use large quantities of water for cleaning tanks, bottles and equipment that can be collected, treated and safely reused.

The Anchor Brewing Company is the first business of its kind to take part in the brewery water recycling program, which provides grant funding to eligible businesses. Founded in 1896, Anchor is San Francisco’s oldest brewery and is one of the City’s Legacy Businesses, a designation awarded to companies that have made a significant impact on the history or culture of their neighborhood.

Cambrian’s technology treats Anchor’s process water to Title 22 reuse standards and the SFPUC’s stringent water quality guidelines, to allow them to reuse the process water in the brewery for non-contact cleaning and packaging processes.

“Climate change will certainly amplify the water supply problem, but California’s core issue is a water management problem,” said Edward Norton, Cambrian Board and a Member of the board of Conservation International. “We have plenty of water if commercial and industrial users commit to cleaning and reusing their wastewater, and it’s positive that cities like San Francisco are embracing this as policy. No water should be used once and now it’s not only economically viable, it’s advantageous to the bottom line.”

Under the SFPUC’s water recycling program for breweries, businesses can receive between $250,000 and $1 million in funding support, based on how much potable water they save. Breweries in San Francisco that are interested in applying for a grant to install a brewery process water treatment system, should contact the SFPUC at [email protected].

“With this partnership we look forward to continuing Anchor’s sustainability efforts to reduce our brewery’s water usage and overall carbon footprint,” said Anchor Brewing Company Brewmaster Tom Riley. “We are celebrating our 125th anniversary this year with a renewed commitment to our San Francisco community and the values upon which Anchor was founded. Advancements such as this, which will have a positive impact on the environment and our natural resources, of course, benefit everyone.”

The new system at Anchor is one of several water recycling and conservation initiatives championed by the SFPUC. More information is available at

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