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Protecting Water Resources

Our operating context

Globally, the demand for freshwater is expected to exceed supply by 2030 and businesses may be subject to declines in water quality and access. In New Zealand, water remains one of our most valuable natural assets, used for irrigation and hydro-electric energy. The cultural significance of water is also recognised under the Treaty of Waitangi.

The New Zealand government commenced a series of reforms in 2009 to improve the way fresh water is managed and further legislative change is proposed for 2017. This includes an investment of $100 million in the Freshwater Improvement Fund and a vision that 90% of the country’s rivers and lakes are swimmable by 2040. Although much of the reform is focused on water quality, the efficient and productive economic use of fresh water is also part of this vision.

All of DB Breweries sites are based in areas currently rated to be of low or medium baseline water stress. Baseline water stress measures the ratio of total annual water withdrawals to total available annual renewable supply, accounting for upstream consumptive use. However, expected trends in climate change and a growing population requires careful management of our water resources. The national weekly water allocation for irrigation, households, manufacturing and other uses in New Zealand nearly doubled between 1999 and 2010, for example.

Why water is important to DB Breweries

Our operations impact on water availability, consumption and water quality in New Zealand. Water fills 95% of our finished beer products and is vital to our business across the value chain, being used to grow raw materials such as hops and malt, to cleaning our plant and equipment to ensure product safety. While we draw on supplies of freshwater for our products, we also impact on water quality in New Zealand by generating wastewater which requires treatment before being returned to the environment.

Excerpt from UN Sustainable Development Goals

Our priorities

We are committed to keeping our local waterways healthy and look forward to working with the New Zealand government on its vision for the country’s rivers and lakes. Through this work we can also contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and how they can be progressed in New Zealand through reducing water consumption and managing effluent.

Globally, HEINEKEN is a signatory of the United Nations CEO Water Mandate. Through this, we have access to world-class water management systems and have our own water stewardship priorities, specifically to reduce the amount of water used in production and reduce the amount of water used in the rest of our business.

Our results

HEINEKEN Global commitment by 2020 DB Breweries – objective by 2016 What DB Breweries has done in 2016
Reduce the specific water consumption in breweries to 3.5 hl/hl overall Reduce our specific water consumption in our breweries and cidery to 3.39 hl/hl Water consumption decreased to 3.3 hl/hl
100% of wastewater treated on-site or by third party Achieved
HEINEKEN’s global commitment 2018 Milestone
Reduce COD to surface water to 0.05 COD kg/hl Reduce COD to surface water to 0.40 COD kg/hl 0.35 COD kg/hl

We have achieved our target this year with another decrease in water consumption from 3.47 hectolitres (hl) of water per hectolitres of beer or cider in 2015 to 3.30 hl/hl in 2016. DB Breweries has lower specific water consumption than the HEINEKEN average of 3.70 hl/hl.

Hl/hl beer + soft drink + cider + water


Reducing water consumption

Over the past decade, we have achieved significant decreases in water use, having already achieved the HEINEKEN goal for 2020. We are also well below the HEINEKEN average for water consumption. Our efforts have been incremental in nature rather than relying on a single technical solution. We continue to take a Total Productive Management (TPM) approach which allows for the development of annual master plans and regular team meetings to monitor consumption as well as empowering individual action to address waste. Staff are now highly engaged in looking for opportunities to save water and this has become mainstream at operating sites.

Water sources

Our primary water source is from municipal water supplies (99.7%). Our alternate water source is from bore water at the Tui Brewery (0.3%). Since the upgrade in 2016 to the Tui Brewery, we no longer use surface water or wastewater from other organisations, or directly collect and store rainwater for usage.


The responsible discharge of brewery effluent is vital to the communities where we operate and their local ecosystems. Our Tui Brewery was the only site to take water from a river and return water after it had been treated by a wastewater treatment plant. In 2016 we redeveloped the Tui Brewery into a smaller capacity brewery which no longer takes surface water. Wastewater from our Waitemata Brewery and DB Draught Brewery sites is treated in municipal waste treatment plants.

The amount of effluent organic load discharged to surface water was reported in 2015 as having increased from 375,951 Kg chemical oxygen demand (COD) in 2014 to 734,970 Kg COD in 2015. This year, the effluent organic load discharged was 436,623 Kg COD and the re-stated data for 2015 is 369,800 Kg COD. This is largely attributed to changes in data collection methodologies, definitions and boundaries in reporting for different purposes, including regulations. Some of the result may also be due to variations during the de-commissioning of the old Tui Brewery wastewater treatment facility. Our target for 2018 is 0.40 COD kg/hl and we are on track with a result for 2016 of 0.35 COD kg/hl.

COD Figures

2014 2015 2016
375,951 KG 369,800 KG 436,623 KG

Case study