If you’re a fan of local wine — white or red — you can take heart in knowing that your favorite Washington blends will soon become greener. Washington’s wineries recently collaborated with the Department of Ecology to create the first statewide water quality permit of its kind. Adopted mid-May of this year, the Winery General Permit — which has been in the works since 2014 – will help winemakers protect water from pollution by providing them with consistent guidelines on how they should dispose of their wastewater.
“We worked closely with local winemakers to develop a permit that provides environmental protection in a way that lightens the financial and operational hardship on wineries, especially for smaller wineries,” said Ecology Water Quality Program Manager Heather Bartlett in a press release. “Most of Washington’s wineries already have good practices that protect clean water. This permit will continue that standard of eco-friendly wastewater management as this industry rapidly grows.”
The need for such a permit is clear: As the second largest producer of wine in the country, Washington contributes largely to winemaking wastewater, which can do a wide array of environmental harm if improperly managed. Beyond damaging crops and killing aquatic life, the wastewater can pull metals from the soil into the groundwater, giving it the potential to harm humans as well.
In order to best respect the needs of Washington’s wineries, the permit will not take effect until July 1, 2019. This grace period will lend winemakers the time and resources they need to best comply with the regulations put forth by the permit. Over the course of the next year, the Department of Ecology will hold workshops that will provide winemakers with the guidelines and tools that they need to make the necessary changes.
For more information about the Winery General Permit, visit www.ecology.wa.gov/winerypermit.