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Washington Wine Could Cost More After State Puts Squeeze On Winery Wastewater

Anna King
Northwest News Network
Brett Isenhower says his winery in Walla Walla, Washington, takes a lot of water to make wine. He's busy buying more efficient equipment that will use less water, and planning for the state's coming new required permits for discharging winery wastewater.

Washington state is proposing changes to how winery wastewater is handled. And that could mean consumers are in for some “bottle shock” when their favorite Washington wine gets more expensive.

Winemakers figure they make at least three gallons of wastewater for every gallon of wine.

Very large wineries are already required to get state permits. But Washington may require the smaller tier wineries—those making more than 7,500 cases a year—to get permits now too.

Brett Isenhower, a winemaker outside Walla Walla, said his rural winery would have to haul water away in trucks, or build an evaporating pond on site.

“We use quite a bit of water for cleaning barrels, for cleaning tanks, for cleaning all of our equipment especially for harvest,” he said.” When you use that much water, it’s heavy and expensive to haul and it costs a lot of money to process.”

Overall, affected wineries would have until 2019 to get into compliance.

The state of Washington says it’s worked closely with the industry over four years to develop these rules. The state is taking public comments on the proposed rules until February.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.