CEO Mark Vernon provides an overview of our water usage programs and initiatives. Read on to learn how we harness, use, monitor, and recycle water at RIDGE.
After two years of below normal rainfall we were all glad to see the early and heavy rains at the end of last year. Unfortunately the almost complete lack of rain since the start of the New Year makes it very likely that we will be facing our third year of drought conditions.
Water is critical to our ability to produce consistently fine wine. While mature grape vines are amazingly resilient, insufficient water availability over multiple growing seasons will take its toll on the vines and their ability to yield a solid, high quality crop. Newly planted vines must be irrigated regularly to establish their root or else they will die. Water is also critical to the winemaking process itself. Constant sanitation must take place throughout the winery to prevent undesirable microorganisms negatively impacting the quality of our wines. This on-going sanitation process requires a significant amount of water.
All the water that we use in our vineyards and at our two wineries comes from our own sources. We do not have the luxury of being connected to a municipal water system either at Monte Bello or Lytton Springs. Therefore, we must use our water wisely, especially during times of drought where there is always a chance that we could run out of water. At Monte Bello, 100% of the water we use comes from our own wells. Fortunately the fractured limestone that is so important to the character of our Monte Bello wines also does a good job of holding ground water. Over the years, we have expanded the number of wells at Monte Bello to ensure our supply of water. But we must take care not to draw more water than a well can consistently produce or risk permanently damaging the well’s ability to collect water.
We are now carefully monitoring how much water we are using from each well and the water level within the wells. If the water level drops too far, it is a signal that we must reduce the amount of water we are taking from that well so as not to damage it. At Lytton Springs, we do have a large irrigation pond at Lytton East that collects rain water from the roof of the winery. But this only accounts for a small percentage of the total water we use, the majority of which comes from wells at Lytton West.
We have worked hard to better use the water we have. Most important is our ability to take the processed grey water (run off from water used to wash barrels, for example) from both wineries and clean it up to the point where it can be used to irrigate our vineyards. At Lytton Springs, this is done with two water treatment ponds at Lytton East. At Monte Bello where we have no room for ponds, we do this with a bio-reactor and filtration system. We have also installed a reverse well system at Monte Bello that collects rain water runoff from our property and sends it back down into the ground to help re-charge the aquifer. We are currently working on increasing the number of reverse wells in our system.
In the wineries, we are investigating the use of alternative sanitation technology that does not require the use of so much water. Ultraviolet light is one promising approach. In the vineyards we have invested heavily in several technologies to better understand when the vines need to be irrigated, and more importantly when they do not. We want to make sure that we are only irrigating the vines when it is truly necessary and using just the right amount of water to do so.
— Mark Vernon, CEO