By Emily Folk
Farms use a lot of water.
Sixty-nine percent of freshwater withdrawals go toward agriculture; and as demand for food rises, so does the need for water in agriculture. Water quality technologies can help the sector to meet some of these needs and ensure that water is clean enough for various farming uses.
Irrigation accounts for around 42 percent of freshwater withdrawals in the United States. Much of the water used for irrigation comes from groundwater, but when groundwater resources become exhausted or contaminated, farmers are turning to water quality solutions such as membranes filtration.
When water is used for irrigation, it does not need to be as pure as it would if used for some other purposes such as drinking water. This means that farmers have more options for obtaining water for irrigation. Today, many are reusing grey water and treated sewage effluent after processing it by using technologies such as membrane bio reactors and ultrafiltration. Doing so helps to conserve freshwater.
Livestock Drinking Water
Water used for livestock needs to be purer than water used for irrigation. Livestock need to drink large amounts of water. A dairy cow, for example, requires 18 to 40 gallons of water per day. Farms need to ensure that they can provide enough for their animals even if the main water supply network stops delivering. This often means have a storage system and pumping system in place.
Farms can source water for livestock from natural water sources such as ponds and streams and may also be able to recycle rainwater. Doing so requires strainers, submersible filter-pumps and other water purification and delivery technologies.
Obtaining Food Processing Licenses
Water quality issues can prevent farming operations from getting the food processing licenses and other permits they need to remain in business. Water purification solutions can help these businesses correct these issues and produce food safely.
For organic farms, water quality issues present unique challenges because they want to correct them without the use of chemicals that could harm the environment. Luckily, there are water quality solutions that don't require the use of chemicals. One particularly innovative approach involves the use of an electric field. The process consists of introducing a signal of 150kHz into a plumbing system, which removes deposits of scale and biofilm and prevents further deposits from accumulating.
Preventing Blocked Pipes
Reusing dirty water can pose challenges including sediment and other debris that can block piping. This leads to increased maintenance work and makes it more challenging to recycle water. Self-cleaning filter-pumps and strainers, however, are designed to remove suspended solids from dirty water before pumping it back to the ground for reuse. This can significantly reduce the need for maintenance and enables farms to reuse more of their water.
Protecting the Quality of Waterways
Agricultural operations can have negative impacts on the quality of surrounding waterways. Rain can wash contaminants from farms, including fertilizers, animal waste and sediment, into nearby rivers, streams, lakes and ponds. This contamination can cause algae blooms, harm marine life and make the water more difficult to treat.
Filters, separators and other water quality solutions can help farms treat stormwater before it enters waterways. Removing contaminants through the use of these systems protects nearby waterways and the broader environment.
Water quality solutions may also help reduce some farms' operating costs. They enable the reuse of water, which reduces water bills and potentially energy costs, as well as the costs or penalties associated with discharging wastewater. Additionally, they help protect the environment and conserve water. Water is a significant input in the agriculture sector, and so water quality solutions have numerous important applications for the industry.
About the author: Emily is a sustainability writer and avid gardener. You can read more of her work on her site, Conservation Folks, where she writes about helping tomorrow’s planet today.