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Water is not only essential to everyday life, it is also crucial in maintaining our thriving agricultural industry.

Extreme weather patterns are fast becoming the new normal with water shortages reaching critical levels last summer. A prolonged drought led to the introduction of water restrictions across many of our farming regions to avoid putting more supplies at risk.

In order to prepare for increasingly unpredictable weather, there is an urgent need to manage water more effectively and sustainably. We want to support the farming community to make changes to conserve water and protect the local water supply to farms and livestock, while reducing water bills.

Conserve water


Drinking troughs

Watch out for overflowing drinking troughs as they can waste significant amounts of water. Adjust the ball valves to lower the float or replace faulty parts. Drain and cover troughs when they are not being used during the winter to avoid frost damage.


Taps and hosepipes

Do not leave running taps and hosepipes unattended or fit automatic shut-off valves. The higher the water pressure, the more water is wasted if there is a leak. Where possible, use control valves at strategic points across your water pipework. Always fix dripping taps and hosepipes promptly and repair overflows.


Dry cleaning

Save water when cleaning the yard by using dry-cleaning techniques. Use scrapers and brushes to remove solid waste from yards and pens before hosing. You can also use a small amount of water (e.g. one bucket) to pre-soak waste before cleaning.


Clean plate cooler water

If you own a dairy farm, you can divert clean plate cooler water to a tank and use it for parlour washing.


Rainwater harvesting

Reusing rainwater from the roofs of farm buildings can lead to savings on your water bills. It can be used for activities such as washing down yards and slatted sheds. This water must be further treated if it's used as drinking water for livestock, irrigation of horticultural crops, or to wash milking parlours.


Watering crops

Water your crops efficiently by irrigating at the right time of day, or better still at night, to meet crops needs and reduce losses through evaporation. Make sure you use the correct pump/pipe size and do not irrigate when it is windy. Consider irrigating at night to reduce further loses through evaporation.

Detecting leaks

Water meters

Check your water meters, including remote ones, on a regular basis to help find and fix leaks on your farm. Do an overnight test using your meter when little or no water is being consumed. If the night usage is unusually high or the counter is still running when everything is turned off, you may have a leak. 

Visual checks

Carry out regular, visual checks along your private pipework on the farm to detect leaks. Inspect the ground above your pipes for visible signs of leaks such as unusually damp ground, lusher than expected vegetation (sign of recent leak) or reduced community / rush vegetation (consequence of a long-term leak).

Suspect a leak?

If you think you may have a leak, you can further investigate by shutting off sections of your pipework to assess the change in flow. Wet drains after a period without rain can indicate blockages or water from a leak may be flowing into them.


Protect your water

Contaminated surface waters

Avoid contamination of surface waters by reducing or stopping access to your livestock by fencing off rivers and streams. Pollution containing animal faeces can affect the water environment, nutrients and soil. Destroyed bankside vegetation can also contribute to flooding.


Be aware of the risk of the Cryptosporidium parasite contaminating your water source. It is very high when animals have direct access to water and can cause severe diarrhoea in humans and animals. To avoid this risk, provide your livestock with alternative drinking sources such as pasture pumps and troughs. 

Avoid risk of soiled water runoffs to surface waters when placing troughs. Keep troughs 20m away from boreholes and wells, avoid placing them near fissured limestone and prevent poaching. In addition, establish buffer zones alongside all watercourses during crop production.

Slurry tanks and silage pits

Maintain slurry tanks and ensure adequate storage throughout the closed period, ensure effluent is collected and stored from silage pits and that bales are stored 10m away from a watercourse.

Pesticides and best practice

Be mindful of regulations around the spreading of chemical fertiliser, pesticides, livestock manure, other organic fertilisers and soiled water. Avoid land spreading during prohibited periods, unsuitable weather conditions (e.g. waterlogged, flooded and frozen land) and keep within overall maximum fertilisation rates for nitrogen and phosphorus.

Pesticide/fertiliser stores 

Make sure pesticide/fertiliser stores are secure and located more than 10m away from watercourses and/or drains. Do not apply herbicides, pesticides and chemical fertilisers within 1.5m of waterbodies/watercourse.

Reduce the risk of pesticide contamination 

  • Choose the right pesticide product
  • Read and follow the product label 
  • Determine the right amount to purchase and use
  • Don't spray if rain or strong wind is forecast in the next 48 hours
  • Make sure you are aware of the location of all nearby water courses
  • Comply with any buffer zone specified on the product label to protect the aquatic environment. Mark out the specified buffer zone from the edge of the river or lake or other water course 
  • Never fill a sprayer directly from a water course or carry out mixing, loading or other handling operations beside a water course
  • Avoid spills, stay well back from open drains and rinse empty containers 3 times into the sprayer. 
  • Store and dispose of pesticides and their containers properly

Conserve and reduce your bills

Download our Water Protection and Conservation on Farms leaflet and start saving today.