Farming News - Effectively managing water-related issues on your farm

Effectively managing water-related issues on your farm

15 Mar 2019
Frontdesk / Arable / Livestock

Early preparation is key to managing water supply interruptions

Following a recent call by the NFU for water-related issues to be taken more seriously to protect farmland in the future, Mark Taylor, Advanced Services Operations Manager at Water Plus, outlines the steps farmers can take to help mitigate and minimise supply interruptions.

Currently, despite the best intentions and prior preparation, interruptions to agricultural water supplies occur, from time to time, and can significantly impact the day-to-day operations of an arable or dairy farm. But there are steps that can be taken to put the farming site in a really good position to weather this.

Ensure site-specific plans are in place

The best approach to ensure the effects of a water supply interruption are minimised is to have a plan in place for the site covering what to do when access to water is lost, as well as checking water resources on-farm and where more can be sourced.

While farms with livestock are classified as ‘Category 4 Sensitive Customers’, meaning that they’ll be recognised as vulnerable during a wholesaler network supply interruption, sensitive sites such as hospitals will be given priority for repairs or emergency water deliveries should supply disruptions occur.

It means if farms don’t have alternative water sources on the land and a plan in place for an interruption, then farmers may have to pay for a water delivery to their site.

In the event of a lengthy disruption, additional water sources can help keep the supply on-site running – boreholes, wells, springs, streams, rivers or lakes, for example, offer good alternative options that could be called on in an emergency too. Whether they are in regular use or not, proactively testing alternative water sources for quality is a good preventative measure and helps ensure they meet the standards of Defra, the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) and the Environment Agency, when you need to call on these sources.

Know what you need if water supplies stopped

Knowing how much water is needed each day for the farming operation is another key step. There may be seasonal variations on how much water is needed, but knowing the quantity used allows clearer contingency planning for the future to help prevent operations grinding to a halt.

Water meters are usually a good indicator of water consumption, with any unexpected increases often a prime indicator of an undetected leak on private pipes on the land.

Also, when thinking about organising a water delivery to a farm site the right infrastructure needs to be in place for this. Consider where the discharge point would be for additional water, including where any short-term water tanker or alternative storage unit would be sited, available space for a bowser and whether the site has suitable access for an articulated water tanker.

Putting less demand on the site’s system is another key step towards protecting farm supply and making sure it is there when needed most. Many water-intensive everyday tasks do not require the water quality of mains water supplied to a farm’s site through a wholesaler’s network. Rainwater collected from troughs and the roofs of farm buildings can be used for a variety of tasks such as washing down hardstanding areas. This can also lower your water bills, meaning a benefit year-round.

What to do if the water supply to a farm is disrupted

Even with prior preparation, it’s still vital to know exactly what to do should a supply interruption occur.

  1. Check if neighbouring properties and other farms in the nearby area also have no supplies. If they are affected this can indicate a network problem. If they’re not then it means checking the farm site for potential causes.
  2. Supply interruptions or a drop in water pressure can be caused by a burst pipe or leak on-site – both of which are the responsibility of farmers to find and arrange repairs for – so take time checking your site regularly for any leaks.
  3. Contact the wholesaler. They can advise of any problems across their network, such as leaks or burst pipes. They’ll also be able to let say what they’re doing to resolve these issues and whether they’re able to deliver additional water to a farm while the supply is off.

It’s also worth knowing the location of your internal and external stop-taps, so you can access them quickly in an emergency. A drop in pressure could be due to one of these being partially closed or a leak on the supply. Internal stop-taps are normally found where the water supply pipe enters your property (in homes it’s usually under the kitchen sink). The external tap will be next to your water meter.

Taking steps to be prepared for water loss will help you to protect your supply in the future and limit the impact any interruption could have on your operations.