The State Water Resources Control Board is working on new winery wastewater regulations which present significant challenges for the industry. The permitting process for the updated winery general order appears to be especially complex and will require a substantial amount of monitoring and reporting. The proposed order would have an impact on more than 2,000 wineries throughout California.
“The issue for us is, the process they’ve proposed for monitoring wastewater discharge is simply unreasonable for wineries,” said Kim Stemler, Executive Director of the Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association. “It creates a huge financial burden for small wineries; a huge financial burden for large wineries as well, but they can afford it a little more than the small wineries.”
Stemler and other industry members expressed concern regarding the proposed winery wastewater regulations during an online public workshop. Director of Environmental and Regulatory Affairs with the Wine Institute, Noelle Cremers pointed out that the overall environmental benefit from the winery order may not warrant what is being asked of the industry. That sentiment was also shared by other participants during the workshop.
“It’s definitely important to care for our land and our community, but is this the right process?” Stemler asked. “This needs to be more data driven and we need to look at, what are the results that they want and how can we get those results in the most economically viable way? I don’t think this is the process because this is too expensive. It’s really untenable for small wineries.”
In talking with industry members about what the winery wastewater regulations would mean for their operation, Stemler explained it would create a substantial burden related to employee cost. The amount of time needed to monitor all of the things listed in the winery order will require a significant amount of time, and in some cases will necessitate the hiring of additional personnel. “They estimated that it would take between one-quarter and one-third of one of their employees’ time throughout the year just to do this,” Stemler noted.