The Oldest Brewery in San Francisco Uses the Newest Technology to Reuse Water

Although the SFPUC believes innovative water reuse projects are exciting, this sentiment is not often shared by those outside of the agency. Add beer, the Mayor, and a famous actor and suddenly every major news outlet in town is interested.

On Friday October 22nd, San Francisco Mayor London Breed was joined by actor and activist Edward Norton, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Vice President Newsha Ajama, and SFPUC staff Paula Kehoe and Taylor Nokhoudian in front of a bank of TV cameras to celebrate the City’s largest commercial water reuse project at Anchor Brewing in Potrero Hill.

Brought about by a unique public-private partnership between the SFPUC, Cambrian, and Anchor Brewing, the new water reuse facility comes at an opportune time. We are starting the third year of a drought. Breweries typically need five to seven gallons of water to produce one gallon of beer. Much of that water is used for rinsing bottles and cleaning equipment. This type of water, also known as ‘process water’, can be collected and reused onsite at the brewery.

“As one of San Francisco’s oldest and most revered businesses, we knew we could depend on Anchor to pursue sustainable and responsible water use practices,” said Mayor Breed. “It is fitting that Anchor is finalizing this water recycling system at a time when these kinds of initiatives are so important. As we face an uncertain future due to drought and climate change, businesses like Anchor are showing how we can adapt to the times.”

The SFPUC has long been an innovator and industry leader in water reuse technologies in both wet years and dry. Led by Paula Kehoe, the SFPUC’s Water Resources Division identified an opportunity to encourage breweries to reuse their process water. In 2018, the SFPUC established a water recycling program specifically for breweries.

The SFPUC provided a $1 million grant to Anchor to help build the facility as part of our Onsite Water Reuse Grant Program. Since the launch of the program, the SFPUC has provided five grants totaling $2.25 million, resulting in nearly 38 million gallons of water saved annually. Internal collaboration has been key to the success of this program. The Water Resources Division partners with Jim Blue and Ken Payne from the SFPUC’s Water Quality Division to complete cross-connection testing of every onsite water reuse project in the city.

A company called Cambrian designed and created the new water reuse system for Anchor Brewing. Edward Norton serves on the Board of Directors at Cambrian. The actor graciously donated his time at the ceremony to help draw attention to his company’s project. In his remarks, Mr. Norton recognized the need for state and national standards for process water recycling. He highlighted San Francisco’s program as a model and inspiration for breweries and other large water users in the food and beverage industry seeking to reduce their water footprint.

The facility will treat 100 percent of the process water at Anchor Brewing, with a capacity to recycle up to 20 million gallons of water annually—the yearly equivalent of some 1,300 San Francisco residents.

The Cambrian water treatment facility is anticipated to begin operation by January 2022.

Learn more about the many programs the SFPUC offers to encourage efficient water use at

SFPUC Commission Vice President Newsha Ajama, Cambrian CEO Matthew Silver, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, Actor Edward Norton are joined by officials and staff to cut the ribbon on the new water reuse facility located at Anchor Brewing.