Catchment Sensitive Farming: Practical Tips

Practical Tip: Water audits

  1. Identify overall how much water you are using and its cost. Include metered and non-metered sources, and take meter readings at least every month. Do not forget the real costs include the amount you are charged for your supply or abstraction licence, and your operational and maintenance costs.
  2. Carry out an audit of water use by checking each separate activity. You may need to estimate water consumption for some of the activities by using a suitable container (of known volume) and stopwatch to check flow rates. The frequency of the activity will determine how much water is used per year. You may identify some improvements while doing the audit for example by doing more dry brushing or scraping, or changing hose nozzles and water pressure.
  3. Calculate from standard information how much water you might use for activities on livestock farms, and compare with your actual usage. This may indicate scope for savings.
  4. Make regular checks for leaks. This includes visual checks for dripping taps, leaky pipes, hoses and nozzles, and for unusually wet areas around the pipe network. You should monitor water flows by regular recording of meter readings, and increase frequency if a problem is suspected. Isolate and drain pipes that are not in use over winter to prevent freezing.
  5. Ensure that you provide sufficient water to meet the welfare requirements of livestock.
  6. Put improvements into practice, review and check water usage.

The joint Environment Agency, Defra, NFU and LEAF booklet "Waterwise on the farm" is a practical step by step guide to undertaking a water audit and develop a water management plan. The aim of the booklet is help farmers to:

  • Reduce water and energy use;
  • Reduce the quantity of dirty water requiring treatment and disposal;
  • Save money and increase profit;
  • Improve environmental performance.

It includes real-life examples of water efficiency in the form of case studies and practical advice that has been tried and tested by LEAF and NFU members.

English and Welsh language hard copies of this booklet are available from Environment Agency publications, please call 08708 506 506. Alternatively electronic copies are available here - English, Welsh.

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