Now is a good time to check water troughs in fields that won’t be used during the winter.

With water costing about 1/m cu a long-term leak on a water trough caused by a faulty ball valve can be responsible for 150m cu of lost water costing more than 150.

But should a fractured ball valve go unnoticed, it has the potential to lose up to 2000m cu of water, worth 2000, says Steven Powell of the Environment Agency, Warrington, Lancs.

Yet replacing a seal on a ball valve costs as little as 10p while a complete ball valve is only about 15.

“Unless farmers know how much water they are using they can’t spot when use increases, which is the first indication there is a leak,” adds Mr Powell.

Undertaking a night-time audit of a farm’s water usage is a valuable method of identifying costly water leaks.

A multi-meter system will help pinpoint a leak more easily, but where a single meter is used it is possible to shut-off different areas of the farm at different times using the stop-valve.

This is best done over night when water consumption is low.

Take meter readings last thing at night and first thing in the morning.

The difference should show if any is leaking.

Mr Powell suggests installing a water meter for each area of the farm to enable detailed monitoring and more effective cost saving.

“It’s worth contacting your local water supplier, who will usually sell second-hand water meters at a nominal cost.

A meter will quantify which areas of the farm are using the most water.”

In later autumn low-cost maintenance of taps and troughs before the first frosts of winter can reduce risks of catastrophic water losses.

Field troughs not used during winter should be covered and protected from frost and any piping closed off.

Mr Powell quotes figures produced from United Utilities showing a charge of 56 a year for a metered water trough plus 1m cu for all water used.

An un-metered trough was charged at 85 a year regardless of use.

When troughs are not going to be used for long periods UU would disconnect the water supply at a cost of 37 followed by another 37 re-connection charge.

“When you have an un-metered field trough which won’t be used for two years you will pay about 170, whereas it will only cost 74 to have it disconnected and then re-connected.”

Also be aware of high-risk leak areas in water systems which contain several types of piping – new blue alkethene, old black alkathene, cast iron, copper or even lead.

“The areas of piping most at risk from leakages are where pipes of different materials are linked,” says Mr Powell.

jh@jeremyhuntassociates.com