Drop by drop

Monday 17 May 2010

Natural water saves thousands of pounds for farms
Aberystwyth University IBERS teaching and research institute shows the way for farmers

Whilst many people are becoming used to harvesting rainwater for their gardens, the University is using natural sources to provide water on an industrial scale.dairy cows

The farms, which are part of the University’s award winning Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS), have found ways of meeting their massive demand for water through a variety of natural means.

The expansion of the Aberystwyth University Farms dairy herd at Trawsgoed prompted farms manager Huw McConochie to explore new sources of water to meet the 50,000 litre daily demand of the farm. “The current system relied heavily on mains water” said Huw, and was simply not cost effective. After failing to secure an adequate supply from bore holes drilled on the farm we turned our attention to rainwater and water collected in two ponds on the farm.

It means a saving of almost £22,000 a year when compared to the cost of drawing water from the mains supply.

“Our experience here shows how farmers across Wales could use different sources of water on their land to meet their needs and cut their bills,” said Aberystwyth University farms manager, Dr Huw McConochie. He continues “our experience has also showed that bore holes are not the only source of water on the farm.”

“The techniques we are using here could be easily adapted to other farms. This is an example of how IBERS can develop new systems and then transfer knowledge and expertise to the agricultural industry in Wales and beyond.”

This is how it works
Dairy cows at the Lodge farm, the biggest of the two diaries operated by IBERS consume up to up to 50,000 litres of water a day.

Drawing water from the mains system at 35 litres a minute was costing IBERS £21,900 a year.

Now the farms are using a combination of natural sources:
•        The farm lake and stream can provide 30 litres a minute of drinking water for the cows.
•        Harvesting rainwater provides enough water to wash down the milking parlour, collecting yard and handling pens every day – about 4 million litres a year.
•        The rest comes from a borehole on the farm.

The key to the system is storage, “even in Trawsgoed it doesn’t rain every day! So harvested rain water is stored in a 30000 litre tank ready for use, while drinking water from the ponds and bore hole are stored in separate 28000 litre tank” says Huw who estimates that the cost of setting up the system will be covered by the savings in the first year alone.

“Taking water from the mains system is obviously a strain on the environment because every drop has to be treated and pumped,” says Huw McConochie. “Using our own sources is cheaper, enables us to practice what we preach, and is better for the planet.”