Go for a Skinny Dip and Save a River

New Belgium Brewery, best known for brewing great beer, like Fat Tire and Sunshine Wheat, and for the massive traveling bike carnival Tour de Fat, is also a leader in corporate water sustainability and donating to water advocacy groups. The company’s Skinny Dip campaign helps to promote and provide financial support for groups working to preserve rivers, because “Rivers need advocates”.

New Belgium Brewery
New Belgium Brewery

“Why is New Belgium diving head first into water advocacy? For starters, water makes up over 90% of our beers. So, no fresh water means no great beers. Living in the arid West, with a threatened river running through the middle of our town, water is an important regional issue for us as well. We believe that acces to clean water as a basic human right is in danger. Responsible consumption means eliminating waste, returning clean water back to the water cycle, and protecting watersheds.”

The Cache la Poudre River, which runs right near the New Belgium brewery in Fort Collins Colorado, is one of the last free-flowing rivers in the west, and local citizens banded together with conservation groups to create the Save the Poudre organization. The push to keep this river free-flowing was captured in a superb poster and ad campaign, affectionately called ‘the Poudre butts’ poster by locals. New Belgium used this image to great success in their print advertising, seen here: Skinny Dip (PDF).

Save the Poudre
Save the Poudre


Last year, the company’s efforts supported advocacy groups working towards the removal of the Condit Dam on the White Salmon River, seen below.

This year, the Surfrider foundation won its fight to keep the San Mateo River from being paved over, keeping the legendary Trestles surf break alive.

In 2008, New Belgium gave over $80,000 to non-profit groups working on water stewardship issues, and the company gave almost a half a million dollars to worthy organizations working on alternative transportation (especially bicycles), environmental education, sustainable agriculture, and conservation issues.

Since 2002, New Belgium has invested over $13 million in their process water treatment plant so they can pre-treat their process wastewater before sending it to Fort Collins’ treatment plant. The treatment of the water creates methane, which is harvested and used to create electricity, which can produce up to 15% of the plant’s electrical needs. New Belgium is also powered by wind, and was the largest wind power purchaser and the sole wind powered brewer in 1999.

According to the company’s data, the water use ratio at the brewery is better than industry standards by about 30%, and the use of xeriscaping and hard piping at the plant, auditing of their cleaning routines and recovering condensate makes them a true leader in corporate water stewardship.

So go ahead and Skinny Dip, it’s good for the river.

Written by Derek Markham

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