Clean water is fundamental to the health of nature and currently it is regulated through the EU Water Framework Directive. However, the Directive is being considered for review and we need the support of everyone to ensure that environmental standards are upheld. This is important even in a world of Brexit. If the EU weakens its water quality standards I would be pretty sure that the UK would be happy to follow suit. However, it is not only wildlife that needs clean water, many of our industries rely on it as well.
How do you like a cold beer in summer, a wee dram in winter, or even a vodka or a gin? Clean and plentiful water has a very important role to play in our taste and enjoyment of such beverages.
Take beer, beer is 95% water and we have been brewing it for 7,000 years. Back then, beer (or ale) was sometimes a safer alternative to water - heating during the brewing process would kill off most pathogens. However, today, clean water is fundamental to the brewing process significantly influencing its taste through variations in chemistry, whether it’s hard or soft or its nutrient content. Craft beers rely on local differences in water for their unique tastes. However, treatment of water can be costly and also add its own unintended flavours to a beer so breweries often prefer sourcing clean water they can use directly in their breweries. Obviously the amount of water they are able to take from the environment is also paramount and the EU Directive aims to deliver sustainable abstraction as well as water quality.
And that dram? Water is used in almost every stage of whisky production and without adequate supplies of pure clean water, the whole distilling industry could not survive. Phrases such as “fresh spring water” and references to specific water origins are key selling points when it comes to marketing whisky. If, say, a prestigious whisky were to add regular tap water instead of sourcing it from one of what they refer to as their water “soul places,” the end products just wouldn’t taste the same. The water contributes to the weight and mouthfeel of a whisky, and can add tart or sweet flavor notes. The chemical properties of the water can have an impact on how well it marries with the final distillate when bringing down its proof. The mineral attributes and purity of the water a distillery uses affects the very taste of the whisky.
So what happens if our water quality standards are weakened, will our beer become a luxury we can’t afford? Will whisky ever taste the same? Will our enjoyment of a drink on the banks of a river be ruined and the wildlife that depends on it suffer? Together we must stop this from happening. The European Commission wants your say through its public consultation. This is your chance to tell them to keep our laws on water strong. If we can do this then we will hopefully be able to do the same in the UK post Brexit. What happens now in the EU remains important and will influence what happens in the UK.
We’ve made it easy, we’ve prepared some answers which will best ensure the law is kept safe and strong. To send these to the commission on your behalf, please fill in your details and click ACT NOW.
Hannah Freeman, Senior Government Affairs Officer, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust
The opinions expressed in this blog are the author's and not necessarily those of the wider Link membership.
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