Sustainable water

Water. You’d think we had quite a lot of it in the UK but, in truth, it’s a precious resource that needs careful management. After all, it’s vital for producing all types of food, from milk to melons, beef to bread.

We've partnered up with LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) and Molson Coors to help all farmers to put effective, long term water management strategies into practice. We’ve published a guide to using water carefully on farms – ‘Simply Sustainable Water’ – which outlines six simple steps to help farmers manage water more sustainably.

Six steps to sustainable water management:

1. Water saving
2. Protecting water sources

Physical health
3. Soil management
4. Drainage

5. Tracking water use
6. Water availability and sunshine hours

Doing more with water in Norfolk

John Kirkbride, dairy manager at Billockby Farms, was keen to improve efficiency at the farm. He was particularly interested in water use, both as drinking water for the cows and for washing down and cleaning out the parlour.

Billockby Farms, located just outside Great Yarmouth in Norfolk, supplies milk to Asda stores from its herd of 420 cows. With each cow drinking between 90 and 190 litres of water per day, water use is a big contributor to business costs.

The first step John took was to identify water saving technology that he could implement, including harvesting rainwater from the roof of the parlour building. It is estimated that with a roof area of 1,800m2 and 660mm of annual rainfall, 1,188m3 of rainwater will be collected every year.

The water harvested will be used for parlour and yard washing, which saves on mains water usage and costs.

John drew on advice from an experienced dairy consultant and managed to secure investment from grant funding. The total investment in the rainwater harvesting elements was in the region of £19,580. This helped to secure a 50% grant from the Norfolk Coast and Broads Local Action Group, which meant the cost to the business was just  £9,790.

Commenting on the development, John Kirkbride said he hadn't quite  realised the full cost of water to the dairy side of the business. “With rising costs from mains water, trying to improve our own water quality and utilise our on farm resources has been critical. This was money well spent.”

For more information please see our simply sustainable water booklet developed in collaboration with LEAF.