FREEPORT — Maine has something that many parts of the country only dream of: clean water and great beer. And the two are connected, now more than ever.

As Maine’s craft beer industry continues to expand, those of us in the business have a heightened interest in helping protect the waterways that are so vital to Maine people, our fish and wildlife, our economy and finely crafted beer.

That’s why today I am joining with 11 other leaders of Maine’s craft brewing industry to launch the Maine Brewshed Alliance, with the goal of adding the voices of brewers and our customers to the important work of protecting Maine’s watersheds – the rivers, lakes, streams and coastal waters that we cherish.

In partnership with the Natural Resources Council of Maine, the Maine Brewshed Alliance will help educate our customers and the public about the importance of being effective stewards of Maine’s waters. We will raise awareness and money for clean water initiatives, and speak up for solutions that protect the waters of Maine, today and for future generations. Our goal is to involve as many of Maine’s more than 100 breweries as possible, in watersheds across all 16 Maine counties.

Clean water is vital to Maine’s economy. Thanks to clean water, my company employs 50 individuals who have a good-paying job brewing beer they are proud of. And it’s not just us: Maine’s lakes support 52,000 jobs. Our commercial fishing industry is worth $720 million, supporting 26,000 jobs. Maine’s lobster fishery has a net economic impact of $1.7 billion. An estimated 12 million people visit Maine beaches annually, providing $1.2 billion to our economy. And Maine’s craft breweries contribute $260 million to Maine’s economy. All of these sectors, and more, depend on clean water.

Water is the most important ingredient for a good pint of beer, comprising up to 95 percent of a beer’s contents and providing minerals that enhance the flavors of the hops, barley and yeast. When a brewer is looking for the right place to start operations, water quality is a top concern. And here in Maine, the water is good – really good – which helps explain the rapid growth of craft breweries from 14 in 2007 to more than 100 today.

For breweries in the Portland area, Sebago Lake is the water source of choice, and it’s the drinking water for one in six Mainers. We are fortunate to have a deep, cold lake like Sebago, which is so clean that the Portland Water District is exempt from needing to install a $150 million filtration system that would cost several million dollars to operate annually.

This is not to say that Sebago Lake and other Maine waterways do not face pressures. Many Maine lakes are close to a tipping point of decline because of pollution runoff from malfunctioning septic systems, pesticide use, housing developments, roads and warming waters caused by climate change. Our wastewater treatment systems face a $1 billion backlog in needed repairs, and potential rollbacks in national environmental laws could put Maine waters at increased risk.

Maine has a proud tradition of leadership in cleaning up our once highly polluted rivers and coastal waters, which were treated as open sewers. Sen. Ed Muskie’s skillful role in crafting the Clean Water Act resulted in dramatic improvements of fouled waters nationwide.

Here in Maine, thousands of people in every part of the state, of all ages, walks of life and political persuasions participate in efforts to keep our waters clean. Lake associations play a vital role through education and water quality monitoring. Federal, state and local officials help write and enforce water quality and land use laws. Businesses work to reduce direct discharges, and waterfront homeowners have a responsibility to minimize their impacts on water quality. And now brewers, through the Maine Brewshed Alliance, will be on tap to help in these collective efforts.

As many of us in the Maine Brewers’ Guild have traveled the country and met colleagues in other states who spend significant amounts of money treating their water before they can even start the brewing process. They envy what we have in Maine. That’s why we can’t ever take clean water for granted. Maine brewers don’t, and won’t.

Clean water. Great beer. Let’s toast to that, and do the necessary work that keeps it flowing.


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