Water is an ever increasing concern in SLO County, but wineries can use the water shortage as an opportunity to make their business more sustainable…
San Luis Obispo County is known for its plethora of fantastic wineries, but we also have serious water issues. We are in a multi-year drought and climate experts are predicting this will continue as a long term trend. Since wineries and vineyards are typically heavily dependent on water, there is no better time than now to make your business more sustainable.
All over town homeowners are looking for ways to conserve this dwindling resource. They take shorter showers, install drought-tolerant landscaping, and wash the car less. People are looking for ways to make smart decisions about water use. When it comes to supporting local businesses, this is no different. Especially with the wine industry, we’ve noticed that people are very aware and critical of the amount of water that is used.
This leaves a huge opportunity for winery and vineyard owners to gain support by being more environmentally friendly. That means more market share for your business and a more favorable public perception. Not only that, but you can save some money by reducing wasted resources and not needing to pump as much water from the well. It also means you can feel proud knowing that you are part of the solution to our water issues.
Let’s take a look at a few ways you can make the water shortage help your business…
1.Replace your lawns with a water efficient landscape…
A beautiful outdoor space can go a long way towards attracting customers to your business. Especially when it comes to wineries, customers expect an inviting atmosphere. But if you want to be seen as an environmentally responsible company, your landscaping needs to match your clientele’s values. Throughout the county, homeowners are removing their lawns at an ever increasing rate. If they are going through the time and expense of tearing out their turf, how do you think they’ll feel if they show up at your winery and you haven’t made that same effort. The point is, making sure your customer knows that your values align with theirs will increase their trust and support for your business.
Besides all that, lawns are simply out of style in California. The new California landscape is filled with native perennials, grasses, and shrubs. Its colorful, artistic, and full of lovely textures and scents.
Saving water is also in style. Lawns use about 50,000-75,000 gallons of water annually per 1,000 square feet. That’s a lot of needless water use. A water efficient landscape uses just a fraction of that amount, and it creates a much more dynamic atmosphere for your patrons. Imagine groups of friends relaxing on the patio surrounded by a lovely natural setting with native grasses swaying in the breeze, the sweet scents of lavender and sage, and butterflies fluttering about. That sounds like the kind of place people would like to come back to again and again!
Rainwater catchment is an often overlooked solution for water conservation. It also happens to be a perfect match for wineries. Most vineyards with cellars or winery buildings have large roof areas that make collecting rainwater very cost effective and easy to implement.
The first thing most people say about rainwater harvesting in SLO County is that it doesn’t rain enough for it to work. Well, fortunately that’s a myth. In fact, if you have even 1,000 square feet of roof area, you can collect 600 gallons from every inch it rains. Most winery buildings are much larger than 1,000 square feet, so you can imagine how easy it would be to capture quite a lot of water each winter.
This rainwater can be captured in above ground holding tanks, underground cisterns, or you can even allow it to be collected directly in your landscaping by creating a passive catchment system.
Some above ground tanks can add visual appeal as well. Metal or wood sided tanks are especially nice looking and make it obvious to your clientele that you care about the environment.
The big question is – what do you do with all this rainwater? That’s exciting, because there are many possibilities. The most obvious use would be to us it to water your vineyard. You can reduce the strain on your well and as an added bonus, rainwater has a neutral pH, which keeps your vines healthier.
Another way to use the rainwater is to water your landscaping with it. Again, the plants will love the neutral pH and you can feel good about giving them a little extra water in the summer to keep your property looking healthy and lush.
Other uses include washing off patios and sidewalks, or even sanitizing the rainwater and using it for wine processing or barrel rinsing.
Rainwater catchment is a wonderful solution for winery and vineyard owners trying to conserve water. Even a little rain can add up to huge savings, and the potential uses are only limited by your imagination.
A Greywater System allows you to use water that is recycled from the winery. Water from processing, rinsing barrels, showers, laundry, and bathroom sinks can be automatically collected and used for irrigation.
This is another case of simply being smart about how our resources are used. Why pump water up from the ground and use it only once, when you can have a system that automatically uses it for a second purpose?
Greywater is especially important to think about if you are planning on adding guest accommodations. This way, you’ll be able to integrate the plumbing for the greywater system into the initial design, which minimizes any future costs of having to retrofit the plumbing later.
Even if you don’t have the option of plumbing the building for greywater from the start, you can still install a greywater system. In most cases it will just take a bit more effort, although the amount of work can vary quite a bit depending on your specific circumstances. The best thing to do is have an experienced greywater expert assess your options.
Greywater is a wonderful way to reduce wasted water and show customers that you care about the environment.
BONUS… Get GREEN Landscape Certified
Greener Environments developed the GREEN Landscapes program to provide a framework for creating landscapes that conserve our resources and provide multiple environmental benefits for our local ecosystems and communities. We developed this as an educational tool as well as a way for homeowners, businesses, and public agencies to officially show their dedication to our environment by having their outdoor space be GREEN Landscape Certified.
The certification involves an application and site review before the certification is awarded. Homeowners that are awarded a certification receive a framed certificate, yard sign, tickets to the annual GREEN Homeowners Dinner, and our monthly GREEN Newsletter.
Businesses receive a framed certificate, yard sign, GREEN marketing materials, and entry into the annual GREEN Landscape Awards.
To learn more about what constitutes a GREEN Landscape, see our article “What is a GREEN Landscape?”.
All of these water saving methods offer multiple benefits for wineries. You can save money by conserving your resources, avoid water shortages when the wells run low, and increase customer support by showing them you are socially and environmentally conscious. The biggest reason though, is simply that our water supplies are seriously threatened. With diminishing amounts of available fresh water and a growing population, we have a supply and demand problem that could have significant repercussions if we stand by and let it get worse.
The great thing about conserving water as a business in California, is that as you increase your water supply, your demand goes up!
Rainwater Catchment & Cover Photo Credit: http://catchingh2o.com