An unassuming building in Renkomäki, Lahti, conceals an access to the source of the best water in the world. As difficult as it may be to imagine, under the snow-covered ground flows fresh groundwater that has infiltrated through the eskers of Salpausselkä.
In the building, water is pumped from a 20 metres deep well into pipes that take it straight to Hartwall’s brewery. Excellent water is one of the reasons why Hartwall has production facilities in Lahti. Water is used for all products and, therefore, it’s quality is essential.
“Water is an extremely important ingredient for us because all our products contain at least 90 per cent water,” says Hartwall’s Brew Master Hannele Alakarhu.
Good water does not have anything extra — no metals, no microbes, and no off taste or smell. The ground determines the quality of the water.
“In Finland, water is soft because there is no limestone in the ground as there is elsewhere in Europe. In some places in Finland the water may contain fluoride, which needs to be removed, but in Lahti the groundwater is good for drinking as it is,” tells Janne Mäki-Petäjä from Lahti Aqua.
The largest groundwater basin in Finland
The Lahti region has one of the largest groundwater basins in Finland. Groundwater develops from rainwater and snow that have been absorbed into the ground. There is groundwater practically everywhere, but areas where the ground allows water to flow particularly well and where it can be pumped are called groundwater basins.
In Lahti, the eskers and terminal moraines of the Salpausselkä ridge area that was formed of sand and gravel by the glacial ice make excellent places for formation of groundwater. There is so much water beneath the earth’s surface that one drop remains underground for decades.
“Coarse soil particles allow the water to flow, which is important for extraction of water. If a well was constructed in a place where the ground consists of finer soil particles, the water would run out soon after engaging the pump,” Mäki-Petäjä says.
Use of water is monitored
The quality of groundwater cannot be taken for granted. It needs attention so that it stays good. Despite looking modest, the well building in Renkomäki is closely monitored. If an outsider tries to access the well without permission, it will immediately trigger an alarm.
The quality of the groundwater is regularly assessed, and risks are managed proactively to protect the water. Groundwater basins are considered for example in construction projects and industrial operations. The motorway that travels close to the well at Renkomäki is a good example of proactive groundwater conservation.
“The road was constructed on a bed of compacted layers of soil, and subsurface drains lead water from the road away from the groundwater basin. If, for example, a truck loaded with chemicals should fall on the road, its cargo would not seep into the groundwater,” Mäki-Petäjä says.
“As long as we have enough rain, we will also have groundwater.”
Using groundwater in drink production is ecological since groundwater requires less processing than surface water because it is purified when it filters through soil layers.
Besides that, groundwater is a renewable resource. As long as we have enough rain, we will also have groundwater. However, groundwater cannot be spent quite freely — it should not be pumped faster than it naturally forms in the ground. That is why the use of the water is closely monitored.
“Lahti is very rich in groundwater, so it will not run out easily in this region. We only pump 25,000 cubic metres of water daily, although we have approval to pump 60,000 cubic metres,” Mäki-Petäjä says.
Groundwater is only lightly processed
The metal kettles at Hartwall’s brewery are gleaming. The scent in the air is sweet and fruity. Drink production operator Niko Tolkki draws bright yellow syrup from a tap and takes it into a laboratory for testing.
Today’s product is Novelle Plus Multi B+C wellness water. It combines the pure groundwater from Lahti with vitamins and minerals that promote well-being.
“High-quality groundwater enables us to make different kinds of products. Because the water is so excellent, there is no need to conceal its taste. We use recipes to add flavours,” Hannele Alakarhu says.
The water comes to the brewery from the Renkomäki well a few kilometres away through underground pipes. Precious unprocessed groundwater is used for the products, and water for the other needs of the production facility comes from the waterworks of the city of Lahti.
“High-quality groundwater enables us to make different products. Because the water is so excellent, there is no need to conceal its taste.”
The groundwater that is used in production would be ready for use as it is, but to be on the safe side, it is filtered and purified using UV light.
“This processing is minimal, and that is sufficient for a significant part of our products. Some of the water is further processed in our own water purification plant to meet the more demanding requirements of the drinks that we produce under licence,” Alakarhu says.
Making of Novelle Plus products starts from preparing the syrup. First dry ingredients, like vitamins, are dissolved into a small amount of water. The solutions are then mixed into a syrup as specified in each recipe. After adding water and carbon dioxide the drink is ready for bottling.
High-quality drinks made of high-quality water
Empty bottles move along the production line at an incomprehensible speed. A blow molding machine blasts small bottle preforms into proper bottles. After that, the bottles continue their journey into a filling machine where the finished drink comes through pipes.
All of this is automated but supervised. Quality is tested several times at different stages of production.
“The quality of the drinks is a top priority for us, which is why we assess their taste, scent and look at every stage of production,” Alakarhu says.
The filling machine fills the bottles and caps them. After that the bottles get their labels and move to pallets where they wait for transport to stores and restaurants. Soon the premium water that was filtered in the ridges of Salpausselkä is on people’s lips all around the country.
Every Hartwall product contains at least 90% water.
The groundwater basin in Lahti is 20 square kilometres wide.
The water infiltrates through the ridges for decades before it reaches the groundwater level.
The pump well at Renkomäki pumps water from the depth of 20 metres.