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Environmental and Economic Life Cycle Assessment of Alternative Sources of Water at Bell Brewery

CSS Publication Number
Full Publication Date
April 2017

Bell's Brewery, Inc. is a craft beer brewer based out of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Bell’s gives high priority to sustainability and has undertaken numerous initiatives within the company to reduce energy usage as well as water consumption. Water is one of the most important components of the brewing process. One gallon of beer production requires five gallons of water. The company’s current annual production of 9.6 million gallons of beer requires 150,000 gallons of water per day. Bell’s projects their water consumption will increase to 500,000 gallons per day within the next five years.

Bell’s currently sources water from the Kalamazoo Water Division. Considering the company’s forecasted growth, their current infrastructure only supports their water treatment requirements for the next two years. In addition, the risk of source water contamination has led Bell’s to consider alternative sources to meet the quantity and quality of water required for the brewing process.

The team identified and analyzed the following four alternative sources:
1. Continue sourcing water from the Kalamazoo Water Division
2. Drill an on-site water well
3. Source water from Portage
4. Source water from Battle Creek

We determined different life stages involved in these four different options and performed lifecycle analysis and financial analysis to analyze the environmental, financial, human health, and social impacts of each option.

Based on our analysis, the well option has the lowest human health impact, ecological impact and global warming potential. The chief reason is that in the well option, water is being pumped the shortest distance which uses the least energy. The adjacent municipality options are the least appealing from an environmental perspective. The combination of the impacts of the municipal water system, the energy to pump water from that adjacent municipality, and the significant infrastructure needed renders these options hard to justify.

The four options were also evaluated by their total cost. Extensive information was gathered through interviews with well digging professionals and county officials in addition to secondary research of publicly available information. This allowed the project team to develop comprehensive financial models and equivalent annual costs for each potential option. Based on the models developed, it was discovered that digging a well would be the most affordable option for its assumed lifespan.

Research Areas
Urban Systems and Built Environment
Water Resources
Publication Type
Master's Thesis
Digital Object Identifier
Full Citation
Engel, Alexander, Peter Goodspeed, Christopher Monti, and Samhita Shiledar. (2017) “Environmental and Economic Life Cycle Assessment of Alternative Sources of Water at Bell Brewery.” Master’s Thesis, University of Michigan: Ann Arbor: 1-58