The big beer maker saved over 15 billion gallons last year.

millercoors reduces water use
Credit: Bloomberg / Getty Images

Beer is mostly water: over 90 percent. But the amount of water it takes to make beer goes far beyond the liquid in the bottle. From the irrigation of the ingredients to cleaning out the equipment when a brew day is done, it’s estimated that each pint of beer requires somewhere in the neighborhood of 160 pints of water to get the job done. So as more companies strive to use water more responsibility, brewers – especially larger ones – are discovering they have plenty of steps throughout their process to work more efficiently. This week, America’s second largest brewer, MillerCoors, announced that last year the company cut its water usage by 16.9 percent – an eye-popping 15 billion gallons fewer than in 2015.

MillerCoors cites innovative farming techniques and more efficiency at the brewery as two major contributing factors to its massive water reduction – the equivalent of over 500 million kegs of beer. The brand admits that Mother Nature helped its cause as well: 2016 was also wetter than the year before. Still, you don’t save that much water by accident. “When it comes to water savings at our breweries and across our agricultural system, 2016 was a banner year at MillerCoors,” Karina Diehl, director of community affairs at MillerCoors, said in a statement. “We’re proud of the water efficiencies achieved at our breweries by our passionate and innovative employees, and we are proud of our long-standing partnerships with our growers. These partnerships span multiple generations and are a driving force behind using less water in 2016.”

Large brewers have taken a lot of flak from the smaller breweries as of late, but one advantage these companies have is the ability to share information across their massive pool of barley suppliers. Brands like MillerCoors and Anheuser Busch are not only conducting and sharing their own research on how to grow barley more efficiently with their farmers, but also have programs to let these farmers share information with each other. MillerCoors pointed out that last year it launched an online “Grower Portal” to facilitate such information sharing.

By 2020, MillerCoors has pledged to address water inefficiencies “in 100 percent of our key barley-growing regions” and cut its water-to-beer ratio in its breweries to 3-to-1 – a significant drop from the brand’s 4.07-to-1 ratio in 2011. Yes, here’s where your snarky “Well why not just stop making Miller Lite since it tastes like water anyway?” line can go. But sadly, snark doesn’t cut water usage. If it did, the internet alone would have the power to eliminate water waste for good.