Our approach

Water is central to our health, culture and identity and it plays a crucial role in supporting our way of life. Water is also essential for brewing beer and cider. It fills around 95% of finished beer products and is a key part of our supply chain, from growing raw materials like hops and malt, to cleaning our plant equipment. In fact, the average glass of beer requires approximately 74 litres of water to make, from growing the barley and hops to cleaning and filling the final bottle.

Freshwater ecosystems are under pressure, with global demand for freshwater expected to exceed supply by 40% by 2030. Locally, freshwater is under threat from invasive species, urban and rural pollution, changing water flows and climate change.

DB’s approach to managing its water use is holistic and covers three main areas: stewardship, circularity and efficiency. Our goal is to brew our products with as little water as possible while ensuring that the water we return to the watershed is treated to the highest possible standards. We also take a proactive approach to assessing our impacts on the water catchments around our sites and addressing these through targeted water stewardship programmes.

Our progress

We have made significant progress in reducing our water use in production over the past decade, with an overall 25% reduction achieved through a combination of capital investments and continuous improvement. Reducing water use remains a priority at our breweries and cidery and our team continue to identify small, but material gains to help us achieve our 2020 target of 3.0 hl of water per hectolitre of beer or cider produced.

A key investment in water for DB is the installation of a wastewater treatment plant at DB Draught Brewery. While the brewery is fully compliant with all local and national water regulations, the new plant will ensure we meet HEINEKEN’s high standards for wastewater and result in a material improvement in the quality of water leaving the brewery and eliminate the Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD). The contract for supply and installation of the plant was awarded in December 2019 and design for the civil work has also been completed. Due to the impact of COVID-19, we now expect delivery of the plant in early 2021, with commissioning completed by late 2021.

In 2019, we undertook a source water vulnerability assessment at our Waitemata Brewery to better understand the local water catchment around the brewery and any risks to water supply and quality. The assessment was guided by the Alliance for Water Stewardship Framework. This is a global standard that aims to drive environmental, social and economic benefits at the catchment. Specifically, we set out to investigate the supply and impact of outflow, and to identify stakeholders to collaborate with to create positive outcomes for the catchment. We identified several opportunities through the assessment. Read our case study for more details.

We continued to educate and empower our people to protect water by cleaning up around our local waterways and beaches on World Water Day. We ran events at six beaches and waterways around the country, with around 100 staff participating. A wide range of litter was picked up, from jandals to tires and even an abandoned dinghy. Restoration of the Waitemata brewery storm water lake also progressed, with the installation of a walking track around the lakeside and the addition of three beehives producing our very own ‘DBee’ honey.

Our key targets and performance

We measure our performance based on the amount of water we consume per hectolitre (100 litres) of beer and cider produced. Our overall water consumption increased to 3.45 hl/hl in 2019. This increase is attributed to the installation of a new meter at our Waitemata Brewery leading to more accurate reporting. There has also been an increase in batch brewing as we extend our product range, which requires more water for cleaning and heating cycles compared with continuous fermentation brewing.

We measure the quality of the water we are discharging, by the metric Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD). The COD of our wastewater has reduced since last year and we expect to eliminate the COD once we have a waste water treatment solution in place at DB Draught Brewery.


Key measures 2020 target 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015
Water consumption (hl / hl) 3.0 3.45 3.18 3.2 3.3 3.47
Water discharge (COD kg / hl to surface water) 0.01 4.870 5.516 5.194 5.236 7.028

* Our water reporting data includes our three main production sites: Waitemata Brewery in Auckland, DB Draught Brewery in Timaru and Redwood Cidery in Nelson.

Looking ahead

With the installation of the wastewater treatment plant at DB Draught Brewery in 2021, all DB sites will comply with HEINEKEN’s high standards for discharged waste water. We will also continue to reduce our water consumption by implementing HEINEKEN best practice water saving initiatives at our sites, with an ambition to get our usage to 3.0 hl/hl by the end of 2020.

Case study: taking an evidence-based approach to protecting local water catchments


DB is committed to improving the way it uses water and making a positive contribution to the waterways around its breweries and cidery. We believe that evidence-based action is critical, and so in 2019, we set out to better understand the risks and opportunities related to the upstream and downstream catchments for our Waitemata Brewery through a source water vulnerability assessment. The brewery sources water from Auckland’s municipal supply, which is mainly drawn from dams in the Hūnua and Waitākere Ranges. Waste water from the site is discharged to the Mangere waste water treatment plant, while stormwater from the site runs into the Tamaki Estuary.

Read more