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Farm surface water management

Obtaining good quality water from farm surface water sources is challenging. The key is protecting and enhancing the water source, and using a series of treatment processes. These treatment processes are called barriers: each barrier reduces specific water quality problems from being passed on in the water.

The following section shows options for multi-barrier protection. Practices to protect the source and treatment options for obtaining water quality appropriate for different farm uses are demonstrated.

Dugout aeration

Aeration is a management technique which enhances water quality in reservoirs. In Canada, farm ponds or dugouts are constructed in clay soils, and used to collect and store water from snow melt and rain. Roughly 3.5 to 6.0  metres (m) deep, dugouts typically store from 2 to 30 million Litres of water. In winter they are completely covered with ice (usually from November to March). In summer water in dugouts will stagnate. However, when dugouts are continuously aerated year round, water quality is improved. This animation shows an aerated reservoir beside an unaerated reservoir. The benefits of aeration are shown and described for each season of the year. As a water treatment barrier, aeration will keep the water fresher with less nutrient recycling from the bottom sediment.

Dugout Aeration.


Coagulation is a chemical process used to remove unwanted particles or matter in water. It is a very common barrier used in municipal water treatment. Coagulation can be used for farm water treatment. The coagulation animation describes the process and benefits of coagulation. Simple procedures are shown to determine the correct chemical dose. A simple method is depicted for treating dugouts and small storage cells. Coagulation treatment will improve water quality for many farm needs.

Screenshot of the animation Coagulation.

Filtration systems

Improving water quality almost always involves some sort of filtration process. Filtration barriers remove larger particles from water, including those formed by coagulation. The animation shows small-scale filters used to treat surface water: rapid sand, rapid carbon, slow sand, and biological carbon filters. The process is shown for each type of filter, with simple explanations of the benefits, limitations, and basic operational requirements.

Screenshot of the animation Filtration Systems.

Disinfection solutions

When high quality water is required, such as drinking water, household water or livestock watering, disinfection is an essential barrier. Disinfection kills disease-causing organisms. The disinfection animation shows why bacteria, parasites and viruses pass through the initial treatment barriers, and describes how chlorine or ultraviolet light may be used to kill these organisms. Disinfection is usually the last barrier in municipal water treatment. Continual water testing is always necessary to ensure the disinfection process is working effectively.

Screenshot of the animation Disinfection Solutions.

Polishing methods

Small-scale water treatment systems for private rural water treatment are generally not managed by chemists, biologists, engineers and technologists, and the treated water quality is not frequently tested, as is the case for municipal supplies. Therefore for rural households, another water treatment polishing barrier is recommended after the initial pre-treatment processes. A polishing barrier will increase the safety of water used for human consumption. Two ideal polishing barriers are shown in the animation: reverse osmosis filtration and distillation. These processes are very effective in removing impurities that the pre-treatment barriers did not remove. A final note: Remember to operate and maintain every barrier, and be sure to test the final drinking water on a regular basis to ensure its safety for consumption.

Screenshot of the animation Polishing Methods.

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