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Michelle Burns of Water Plus, the UK’s largest water retailer, outlines the measures farmers can take to ensure a robust and efficient private water network on their land.
Whether it’s catering for arable or dairy, a farm’s water network is critical to the commercial and operational success of the business it serves.
However, it’s often only when a farm has a problem with its network, such as a leak or a burst pipe, that we recognise the importance of having a strong system in place.
So, it’s essential that farmers know not only what to do when things go wrong, but also that they have a strategy in place to reduce the likelihood of an interruption to their supply.
While ensuring you have a robust network might not always be front of mind, there are a number of long-term preventative measures you can take to ensure your water supply remains healthy all year round.
Protect your pipes
As a farmer and an agricultural landowner, you are responsible for identifying and organising the repair of every supply pipe from the point of the water meter on your land, just like homeowners.
It’s therefore worth looking out for leaks regularly and checking that pipes are properly insulated, to prevent supply interruptions from bursts or freezing.
We recommend pipes are buried at least 75cm (750mm) underground to protect them from the worst of the winter weather, as well as the potential for accidental damage caused by day-to-day farming work.
Diversify your supply
Farmers will often only think of their alternative water sources on their land in the worst-case scenario of an interruption to their supply, but these remain on-hand and can be used as part of an efficient everyday network.
Water from wells, springs, streams, rivers and lakes around your farm can all be used for some tasks that don’t need mains quality drinking water, and by using them you can reduce your water bill 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 both Defra, the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) and the Environment Agency, when you need to call on these sources.
Ensure your water usage is as efficient as possible
Putting less demand on your system is another key step towards protecting your supply and making sure it is there when you need it most.
Many water-intensive everyday tasks do not require the water quality you get from mains water.
Rainwater collected from troughs and the roofs of farm buildings can be used for a variety of tasks traditionally reserved for a hose, such as washing down hardstanding areas.
For tasks where you do need to use mains water, such as supplying animal troughs or irrigating crops, you may be eligible for an allowance from the wholesaler for your area as some of the wastewater won’t return to the public sewer.
To claim this allowance, known as ‘Non-Return to Sewer’, you will need to provide a site plan showing the location(s) of where the wastewater goes at your site, and also complete a Non-Return to Sewer Claim form.
Wholesalers may also need additional information to review these claims, including sub-meter readings in some areas of England, measuring the water that returns to the public sewer.
Water is the lifeblood of many day-to-day agricultural operations, so it’s vital that you ensure your system is robust and reliable at all times.
If you’re unsure of how to do this, or want more advice on water use on your farmland, go to our dedicated water website area for farmers.