The California Water Resources Control Board has adopted a new order with discharge requirements for winery process water. The regulation could increase production costs for wineries at the same time as it protects water bodies, and will ensure consistency for wine producers in the state, informs The Press Democrat.
The Californian wine industry contributes an estimated $57.6 billion in revenue to the state’s economy per year, through taxes, wages, tourism and sales. But process water from wine making can degrade groundwater quality because of its nitrogen content, salinity, and biochemical oxygen demand.
The new regulation will streamline state-wide permitting of winery process water discharges to land. Along with reporting requirements, the order limits the amount of process water that can be disposed of through land and subsurface disposal. It also sets specifications for water treatment systems and ponds. Furthermore, groundwater monitor requirements will apply to the biggest wineries.
California’s wine industry advocacy association Wine Institute estimates the new order will apply to more than 2,000 of the over 3,600 bonded wineries in the state. Only about 540 wineries hold permits currently, and so for some 1,500, it will entail extra costs as they comply for the first time with the new regulatory framework for wastewater disposal. They will have, however, flexibility to select methods that best fit their specific situation.
Developed with the involvement of stakeholders from industry and environmental groups, there are concerns about the impact on smaller wineries. The industry faced unprecedented challenges in 2020 with substantial losses from wildfires and from the pandemic. Meanwhile, the environmental coalition California Coastkeeper Alliance said the move is an important step but is not enough to protect water bodies, citing among other shortcomings the lack of spill prevention and containment standards.