Ghent University brews beer with waste water


Scientists at Ghent University have brewed beer using waste water from a local brewer to illustrate one of the many consumer possibilities for the use of processed water

Ghent hosts conference

Researchers from the bio-engineering sciences faculty at Ghent University have brewed a beer with purified waste water. They carried out the experiment for a global congress on the recycling of resources from water flows.

The researchers specifically used waste water from the De Wilde brewery in Ghent. “We purified it using membranes, a technique applied to remove the salt from seawater,” explained professor Ingmar Nopens. “This technique is used in areas with a shortage of drinking water, like Australia and the Middle East.” After a few additional adjustments, the waste water could be used as brewing water.

Researchers said that many techniques for the recycling of resources are already fully available, and they want to test consumer response. “We want to examine attitudes towards products made from recuperated resources,” said Nopens.

The beer will first be presented at the International Water Association Resource Recovery Conference in Ghent this weekend to “scientists who know the purification process well,” said Nopens.

The conference will also highlight other initiatives to retrieve energy from waste water. Scientists will, for example, show how phosphorus – an important mineral in fertilisers – can be recovered from waste water. Another project will demonstrate how sanitary water can be used to produce residual heat. 

Photo by O.van de Kerchove/

Belgian beer

Belgium has a beer-brewing tradition going back centuries and is known around the world for both its beer culture and hundreds of craft brews.
History - Beer culture has been recognised by Unesco as part of Flanders’ Intangible Cultural Heritage. The local beer culture dates to the middle ages, when farmers brewed their own beer from the rich harvests of local grain, later transferring brewing to local guilds and abbeys.
Beer styles - The main styles include lambics, white beers, fruit beers, Trappists and abbey beers. The Trappist beer Westvleteren 12, brewed by a dozen monks in a small West Flanders town, is regularly rated by various sources as the best beer in the world.
Exports - Sixty percent of the Belgian beer production is exported abroad, with France, Germany, the Netherlands and the US the largest markets.

Litres of beer annually consumed per person in Belgium


breweries in Flanders


million hectolitres of beer produced in Belgium in 2012