This year has been very changeable across the UK in terms of water availability through droughts and in terms of the prices for metered water. Water bills within some industries are now twice as expensive as electricity and are leading to companies’ traditional methods being labelled as unsustainable. Whilst the drought warnings have now been lifted in many regions the threat of a future lack of water combined with the increasing price per cubic metre is something that farmers and many other business types are now looking to mitigate against. As it turns out the solution may well be under the soles of our feet.
The effect of drought on the environment, industry and thereby the economy can be extreme. Farming communities are often more severely hit, driving up the costs and therefore the end prices of all produced goods. Needless to say, farmers have been increasingly looking to locate a private water supply in recent years. Many within the farming industry have found that future planning and management through the installation of irrigation and livestock boreholes offers the sustainable solutions being sought.
So how does this work? It’s apparently fairly straight forward and begins with some careful location planning – usually through the use of sonar readings. For larger requirements especially it’s necessary to undertake a geological investigation and a groundwater assessment. The British Geological Survey offer a ‘Water Borehole Prognosis Report’ service and many hydrogeological consultancies and drilling companies can advise on this further.
Once a location has been identified, a drill and test pump of an exploratory borehole is undertaken. The Environmental Agency (EA) usually authorise this for larger scale use in the form of suitable notification, rules and licences. In order to fully benefit from a private borehole (using in excess of 20 cubic metres of water a day), those seeking a borehole must obtain an abstraction licence from the EA. The licence ensures the owners of private boreholes are exempt from hosepipe bans on the provision that the water is extracted from their own underground source.
Water well drilling rigs are then used to create the boreholes in the appropriate locations. There is no guarantee of a useful water supply but with careful research prior to installation the risks are minimal. The installation offers access to water across sites at a comparatively cheaper cost, even when taking into account the installation fees.
Work onsite can take up to 2 weeks although it’s usually a much shorter time. Throughout the work the rock strata are analysed to help ensure the appropriate casing is used, a process that adds to both the performance and longevity of the borehole. Usually the entire length of the borehole is lined and the materials for a submersible pump and cables are of a non-corrosive nature. Testing is undertaken on completion. Maintenance issues are minimal with a well constructed borehole and any development, servicing and remediation usually undertaken with borehole drilling equipment.
After the water drilling rigs have finished and work is completed, the water quality must be checked to ensure that it meets European Laws for irrigation/livestock farming. The Environmental Health Department of your Local Authority has an obligation to test the water to ensure it reaches satisfactory standards if it is for domestic use or to make food/drink that will be sold. Any issues with high levels of iron or manganese can be mitigated or controlled against through the implementation of either oxidants or through filtration. Likewise issues with sand and other natural particles can be removed as required, again through filtration.
On completion, a farmer can look to reduce their water outlay from around £1.20-£1.50 per cubic metre (metered water) to something in the lines of 20p-30p per cubic metre. Savings that speak for themselves! This isn’t taking into account that the use of a borehole limits the issues created by drought for farmers. Indeed this policy has worked so well that other industries are taking note, including holiday parks, golf courses, those in charge of large green areas (parks, football stadiums, etc) as well as well-known businesses such as Nestle.
Photo by khym54