A Somerset dairy farm is saving around £14,000 a year from its water bills after using existing infrastructure to establish an alternative water supply.

Dairy farmer Mark Humphry and his son, Matt, wanted to reduce the size of their water bill. Ever since a new dairy was installed at Manor Farm, at Isle Abbotts, near Taunton, the amount of mains water used had gone up, resulting in increased bills.

In the past, the farm had taken its water from the nearby River Isle by means of a weir and water-powered Ram pump but as the farm expanded this supply was insufficient so mains water was installed to keep pace with demand.

Nigel Ponsford, South West Water Business’ Agricultural Key Account Manager, visited the farm to assess whether it would be possible to renovate this system to supply a greater volume of water. But he found that the costs would be relatively high and the quantity of water delivered would still not be enough to meet the farm’s needs.

Prior to visiting, Nigel had viewed the site on Google Maps and had spotted an old leat running from the river, through the farm. Over time, this had become blocked but Nigel judged that it could be unblocked and extended to supply the farm with relatively little work and expenditure. By way of an additional benefit, this would also mean that by removing water from the river in this way, the chance of flooding downstream would be reduced.

A system was designed using an SWWB-approved contractor where water was abstracted under gravity to a settlement chamber on the riverbank. The supply was then pumped 180m back to the dairy where it was filtered to ensure water quality levels and then chlorinated before being stored in an existing rainwater collection tank. The water is then pumped to different points around the farm. The pipe in the leat is set so that if river levels fall below a certain point, no more water is taken.

The farm is extracting 20,000 litres a day in this way, which is saving around £14,000 a year. With the total cost of the work to install the system standing at £11,000, the farm has achieved return on its investment in less than a year, with running costs standing at virtually zero as the additional supply is solar-powered. As a result, the farm’s water supply is much more secure in the event of bad weather, meaning that its 280-strong dairy herd will always have access to drinking water.

“The reservoir tank has a mains water back up with the correct back flow air gap and the farm now benefits from a constant four bar water pressure as opposed to the one bar before allowing water troughs to fill quicker and washing down to be more efficient. It’s a system that works well and has made a big difference to the farm,” said Nigel.

Matt, pictured, said: “Dairy farmers use a lot of water so this has made a huge difference to us. It’s reduced our cost of production by 0.7p per litre. It will be saving us tens of thousands of pounds a year. The scheme was pretty straightforward and with Nigel’s expertise it was very easy to do.”
Many farms have disused wells or springs that can be quickly and easily brought back into use to supply additional water in this way, meaning that they could save a substantial amount on their water bills.
To find out more, click here or telephone the South West Water Business Commercial Team on 0330 041 5567.