New water storage decreases ground water use

This is the third article in a series this week where we’re profiling Ontario farmers and some of their on-farm environmental improvements – in honour of Earth Day, of course.

Botanix Oxford Instashade - garden centreThe hot, dry summer of 2012 was the tipping point for Oxford County farmer Jan Veldhuizen, who was using up to 6,000 gallons (22,700 litres) of water a day to keep his tree nursery and garden centre going.

Veldhuizen was pulling water directly from the ground through the small well on his property, and he knew he needed to better manage his water supply in a way that was good for both his business and the environment.

“I would leave the hose running from the well to fill our holding tank, and if I ran out, I had 24 hours to get more water quickly,” says Veldhuizen, who farms with his wife near Burgessville. “Last year my well ran pretty much 24/7 to keep up and that’s not sustainable in the long term or good for the aquifer.”

Veldhuizen also had another problem. Jan Veldhuizen

When it rained, the water coming off his greenhouse roof needed to be collected somehow to prevent flooding on both his property and his neighbour’s.

His drip irrigation system required clean water, so he couldn’t just use the roof run-off water to water his plants without also installing expensive equipment to clean and re-circulate the water.

Drilling a second well was an option, but wells in his area run between 45 and 100 metres deep, he says, which means the water can be hard and prone to high iron and sulfur content.

This option, too, would require an expensive system to manage.

Ultimately, Veldhuizen found his solution in an underground water tank with a capacity of 90,000 gallons (approximately 340,000 litres) that collects water and stores it until he needs to use it.

“Building this tank meant I can fix the run-off water problem and have water on hand for my plants at the same time,” he explains. “We have a small parcel of land so we didn’t want to build a pond and use up a lot of real estate.”

Water storage under construction
Jan Veldhuizen standing on top of the new water storage being constructed at his tree nursery.

“We also had to consider the liability of having an open body of water in close proximity to customers from our garden centre,” he adds. “As well, if you expose water to sunlight, you get algae, but water stored completely in the dark cannot grow algae. So we put a roof on the storage which is suitable for light-duty driving and we now have a water storage that also serves as useable real estate for our operation.”

The water system is located about 200 feet (60 metres) behind his greenhouse and is fed on gravity so he doesn’t need any pumps—or a generator to run the pumps in case the power goes out—to fill the holding tank.

Veldhuizen is looking forward to lessening his dependence on ground water sources to run his operation.

“With this system, we’re going to be using all surface water and limiting rain water run-off problems at the same time,” he says. “We’ll also be conserving water since we’ll now be able to go three weeks with no rain in a hot, dry summer without having to draw water from the ground.”

To help fund his new installation, Veldhuizen was able to access cost-share funding through a special program for improving water quality, water quantity and water management issues that was available to Ontario greenhouse, landscape nursery and vegetable farm businesses in 2012.

The program was delivered to Ontario farmers by the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA).

“We really appreciated the support we were able to get for this project and our local OSCIA program rep did a fantastic job in helping us get through the paperwork and get everything in place,” says Veldhuizen.

Note: A longer version of this article was originally written for and released by the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association.

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