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Sometimes I wonder if we actually realise the extent to which water management influences the entire farm system? From the health of the soil, to pasture growth and production, to milk production, to holistic farm efficiency and profitability. It is important to ask what mechanisms you as a farmer have in place to measure and ensure that water is being used efficiently on your farm. Not only is water stewardship important in the broader sense (see: Be a steward of water!), but you are doing yourself a disservice by not managing your water allocation and resources effectively (see: Better water use efficiency can result in greater profitability). There are various ways that water use can be monitored. Some of the more simple ideas are shared below:

  • Measuring whole farm water use efficiency
    • By having a basic measure of the total water use relative to the total production (e.g. litres of milk production, tons of vegetable yield, tons of meat production) a farmer is able to monitor, and hopefully decrease, the amount of water that is required to produce the product on the farm.
  • Irrigation scheduling
    • By ensuring that sufficient water is provided to plants at the correct time, without an under- or overprovision of water, enough water is supplied for healthy plant growth and water is not wasted through over irrigation.
    • Associated with irrigation scheduling is the monitoring of soil moisture. It is impossible to irrigate accurately and effectively if there is no measure of soil moisture.
  • Leak identification
    • By installing flow meters on main pipelines leaks can be easily and quickly identified. This also requires that flow meters are regularly checked, and the usual amount of water flow is known. A broken ball valve in a water trough in an obscure camp that is not often visited, or a leak in an underground pipe with good drainage, would not easily be identified and can result in a major waste of water.

Water is a precious resource and everything possible should be done to ensure that it is used carefully and efficiently.

Craig Galloway