A new water treatment system implemented by a California winery may make you squirmy.
“We’re installing a new water treatment system that uses worms to process the wastewater, and I’m really excited about it,” Laura Díaz Muñoz, winemaker and general manager at Ehlers Estate, said to Wine Enthusiast. “It will allow us to treat all the wastewater we use in our facility without chemicals and produce water that’s clean enough to irrigate the vineyards and the landscaping.”
The treatment system, called vermifiltration or worm-based biofiltration, utilizes countless earthworms to digest nearly all contaminants in wastewater without the need for chemicals, according to BioFiltro, a Chilean environmental engineering company that pioneered the process.
The worms feed on contaminants that might be found in the winery’s gray water, such as grape skins, seeds and sugars. The worms quickly and naturally produce nutrient-rich waste, which benefits the soil. Other similar processes use electric power to pump and circulate the water.
The “wriggle rooms,” as BioFiltro calls them, come in different sizes, with the smallest treating between 500 to 750 gallons per day. A recent adoptee of the treatment system, Frey Vineyards, can treat 10,000 gallons of gray water per day.
Wineries, particularly those in California where 10 of the last 11 years have been classified as drought years, have become very cognizant of their water use. Some estimates say the average bottle of wine requires 174 gallons of water to produce when considering irrigation and water used to produce the wine.
“Water is the number one resource that we need to be concerned about, that’s for sure, and we want to make sure that the water that goes back into the soil is the best quality possible,” Díaz Muñoz said.
“It’s not just about farming, there’s the social aspect of being a good steward of the land and member of the community. At the end of the day, we’re pumping groundwater and we all need to do our share to conserve it and make sure it lasts.”
Photo credit: Winemag.com via BioFiltro