Mitigating Water Quality Challenges in Farming and Agricultural Practices
The production of crops and livestock is highly water intensive and as a result agriculture is the largest water user accounting for nearly 70% of the global water withdrawal, with the remaining 30% consumed by municipal, energy and industrial sectors. The global demand for food is expected to increase by 70% by 2050 which means the global demand for water shall further significantly increase. While water scarcity is a major threat, water quality issues confronting farming and agricultural businesses are ever-increasing. Manifested by the expansion of the world population, the overuse of fertilizers & pesticides and the untreated effluent discharged into our natural water systems, to name a few.
Rhino Water & Aquamat provides project/application specific water solutions aimed at serving the agricultural markets. By implementing a holistic water management approach that takes into account the entire water cycle: from source to distribution, economic use, treatment, reuse and return to the environment. All criteria are taken into consideration to facilitate the best solution to the challenge at hand.
Strong partners set a clear foundation on how to solve market related problems and offers a collaborative advantage. Aquamat brings the manufacturing and engineering capabilities required to design, build and commission rapid, re-deployable, packaged water treatment plants guaranteed to deliver quality process and /or drinking water from any water source. While Rhino Water brings the knowledge and products for open water bioremediation, treatment for manure, sludge and oxidation ponds, as well as water storage solutions, dam liners and floatation covers. Rhino Water specializes in project managing all projects ensuring that a holistic solution is achieved.
Water treatment technologies employed by Rhino Water and Aquamat for the agricultural markets include:
- Multi Media Filtration
- Biological Treatment
- Mixing / Aeration
- Dissolved Air Flotation
- Reverse Osmosis
- Water Storage Systems
- Dam Liners
- Flotation covers
Water quality impacts on Irrigation Water:
Agriculture relies on copious amounts of water that meets a certain water quality relative to the crop being produced. Water used for irrigation can vary greatly in quality depending upon the source of feed water, nearly all irrigation water contains potentially unfavourable amounts of minerals. Dissolved constituents are left in the soil after the applied water is lost by evaporation or through transpiration by the plants. Unless these minerals are leached away from the root zone, sooner or later they will accumulate in quantities which will partially or entirely prevent growth of most crops.
Special management practices may be required to maintain acceptable crop yields and soil properties. Monitoring water intake allows the farm manager to make informed decisions when faced with soil and crop related problems most commonly encountered with poor quality water.
Water quality related problems in irrigated agriculture:
Salinity – A salinity problem exists if salt accumulates in the root zone of crops. Salts in soil or water reduces water and nutrient availability to the crop causing stunted growth and poor yields.
Water Infiltration Rate – An infiltration problem related to water quality occurs when relatively high sodium or hardness (calcium and magnesium) content in soil or water reduces the rate at which irrigation water percolates the soil too slowly to supply the crop with sufficient water to maintain acceptable growth and yields.
Specific Ion Toxicity – Apart from the salinity the other constituents of much irrigation water may cause toxicity problems when taken up by plants in excess amounts. The toxic constituents of major concern are sodium and chloride. These ions are freely taken up by the plants and become concentrated causing crop damage such as leaf burn.
Heavy Metals – Excessive iron and manganese content in water can lead to unsightly deposits on fruit or foliage, reducing marketability as well as causing limescale build-up and corrosion to capital equipment, increases maintenance and operational costs.
Drainage – The downstream drainage water quality may deteriorate owing to leaching of salts, nutrients and pesticides with high salinity and alkalinity. There is threat of soils converting into saline or alkali soils.
Past completed project:
Water Source: Borehole Water
Treatment Process: Oxidation (precipitation), Iron and Manganese filtration removal
Water quality impacts on livestock:
Poor water quality, as well as quantity, may affect feed consumption and the general health of livestock. Most factors affecting water quality are not fatal to livestock however if concentrations of specific compounds found in water are high enough livestock may not show clinical signs of illness, but growth, lactation and reproduction may be affected, causing an economic loss to the farmer.
When evaluating a water source for livestock, consider whether livestock performance will be at risk, whether the water source could serve as a carrier to spread disease and if the acceptability of animal products for human consumption will be affected.
Water quality problems affecting livestock are more commonly seen with high concentrations of minerals (excess salinity), high nitrogen content, bacterial contamination, heavy growths of toxic blue-green algae or the miss use of pesticides and fertilizers. Removing these is essential for providing livestock with healthy drinking water. Research indicates that livestock, when provided with high quality water, will drink more, eat more and ultimately produce more.
Water quality factors affecting livestock:
Blue-green Algae (cyanobacteria) – Warm water conditions combined with a nutrient rich body of surface water provide ideal conditions for algae growth. The best way to avoid blue-green algae blooms is by limiting nutrients entering the water source and aerating the water.
Bacteria – Water contaminated by faeces can transmit many disease-causing organisms such as E. coli, cryptosporidium and salmonella. The easiest way to minimize pathogens in water is to prevent livestock from having direct access to the water source.
Total Dissolved Solids – The main symptom from ingesting saline water is diarrhoea. If TDS is high enough, cattle may avoid drinking the water for several days, followed by a period of high consumption, which causes illness or even death. Treatment of high TDS water requires a membrane system such as reverse osmosis.
Nitrates – Nitrate in itself is not toxic to animals, but at concentrated levels it causes a disease called nitrate poisoning which may result in abortion, weight loss, reduced milk production and other animal performance issues. Nitrates can be removed from water by reverse osmosis, distillation, or through an ion exchange resin process.
Taste and Odour – Good management practices of water bodies, such as preventing aerating dams are inexpensive ways to minimize unwanted tastes and odours and ensure a good quality water source. Treatment to remove taste and odour is expensive but prevention is affordable.
Past Completed Project:
Application: Dairy Farm
Water Source: Dam water
Treatment Process: Clarification (to remove suspended solids), Multi-Media Filtration and Disinfection
The demand for water treatment is already high and will only increase over the coming years as environmental standards for water use increases and pressures on our water supplies continue to grow. Contact Graham Poultney or Phillip Lunnon to learn more about how Aquamat and Rhino Water can help your business operate more “water” efficiently.
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