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I am the owner of a new craft whiskey distillery in Oxnard and part our vision for this distillery is to make our operation at least 95% recycled.  This is composed of primarily two components, first is the residual grains that are left after fermentation and distillation called “spent grains” and second is the residual gray water called “stillage”.  Our spent grains will be offered to any farmer as a high protein/fiber additive to their current feed.  We are looking to offer our stillage to anyone that can make use of it and includes farmers, nurseries, and mulch wholesalers.  However we would like to give priority to free community vegetable gardens.

Stillage is composed of small particulate grain material, dead yeast, and soluble plant material.  It will not contain any volatile organics since we separate those during the distillation process.  Currently throughout the world stillage is used to irrigate farms and has shown to increase yield while conserving water.  I find it silly to dump this down the drain since it has a high BOD (biological oxygen demand) which is what makes in a good liquid fertilizer but also difficult for waste management to handle.

In late spring we will be offering 100’s of gallons per week.  By next year this will increase to a 1-3000 gallons per week.

If you can give us any guidance please contact me at david@sespecreekdistillery.com

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Hi David,

That’s great you want to reuse the water. You’ll first need to find out what your county/city classifies the water as, and if it’s classified as “gray water” it may be difficult to reuse it off of your site. In general, if water is going to be reuse off-site it will need to meet Title 22 standards, which require treatment and daily monitoring (such as is required of wastewater treatment plants for recycled water). If there is any way to use the water on-site, or perhaps at an adjacent site, it will be a lot easier to get permission. Also, you’ll encounter fewer concerns if you focus on reusing it on non-edible plants.

If I were you, I’d set up a meeting with your county Environmental Health Director and see if they’ll be willing to work out a way to reuse this water. If they don’t seem open and you still want to pursue this, you’ll probably need to work with an engineering company and come back with some proposals.

A separate consideration: Since water is relatively cheap, and it’s heavy and not easy to transport, it may be hard to make an ecological and economic case for trucking it anywhere off-site. (The same amount of water could be saved, consuming fewer resources, in another manner.)  You could also consider looking into closed-loop reuse systems at your facility, such as are used in some commercial laundry facilities. I haven’t heard of anyone doing that in a distillery, but perhaps there is technology available.

Good luck!

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