Water, Water Everywhere!

November 28, 2008
Written by Donna Speranzini – Horticulture Nutrient Management Program Lead/OMAFRA
Nov. 28, 2008, Ontario — With 2008 defining itself as the year of water, it seems a little weird to talk about water recycling and water conservation, but I am going to anyways.
Ontario’s greenhouse and container nursery industry includes over 2,500 operations, with over 1200 ha of greenhouse and 21,000 ha of nursery production. The industry is extremely proactive when it comes to environmental issues and growers are increasingly aware of the value of the high quality water both they and the public require. It is with this common goal in mind that the industry has teamed with OMAFRA to demonstrate and evaluate several practical ways to collect, treat and re-use irrigation water.
A few of the technologies being looked at include: vegetated filter strips, constructed wetlands and the re-use of water by irrigation onto a biofuel crop.
Vegetated filter strip technology has been approved for manure runoff under the Nutrient Management Act and is currently being evaluated for milkhouse washwater treatment. Our project is testing the on-farm effectiveness and practicality of filter strip technology under a greenhouse setting. This treatment system involves a tank and pump to distribute used irrigation water through an above-ground pipe located along the top edge of a gently sloping field outside the greenhouse. Water is then released from the bottom of the pipe and allowed to infiltrate into the soil and down the vegetated slope. This system does not allow for water re-use, but it does allow the soil to filter and remove any nutrients that may be in the water, and that might otherwise negatively impact surface or groundwater quality.
The constructed wetland being demonstrated on a container nursery operation was developed and installed by Aqua Treatment Technologies and is a vertical flow, lined, 3-cell system. Water is pumped into the top of each cell and allowed to flow down through the media. The cells have alternating aerobic and anaerobic zones to remove phosphorus, nitrogen and E. coli. This water is then returned to a pond for re-use.
A third system being tested is the irrigation of run-off water onto a biofuel crop. The potential to close both the nutrient loop and the energy loop on the farm is being investigated.
This project will run from February 2008 until Dec. 31, 2009. By looking at a variety of different technologies in an on-farm setting we hope to provide growers with the information they need to evaluate and select which water and nutrient management solutions best fit their specific production system.

(Reprinted with permission from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs website.)


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