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Tips on Dugout Water Treatment

This summer, many producers are asking about treatment options for dugout water. With dugout levels lower than normal in some regions, the water is sometimes colored and even after treatment, smells and tastes persist.

This situation is not unusual for regions which have experienced drought. Salt, organic matter and nutrients for algae growth have all become concentrated in the dugout water from evaporation. This places higher demands on treatment systems, requiring more chemicals and frequent maintenance to remain efficient.

The good news is that given proper treatment, all water can be brought up to acceptable standards; however, good quality water will generally cost less to treat than poor quality water.

Smelly water is a common complaint in spring. Assuming the aeration system is working properly, odours may indicate a problem with the activated carbon filter. Properly maintained granular activated carbon systems work well to reduce colour, taste and odour. Carbon systems are in place in many households, but often the carbon filters do not work well because they have been exhausted or are overloaded beyond their capacity. Standard household systems will usually last about six months before they become exhausted and need replacement. Treating poor quality water will require more frequent maintenance.

Coagulation is also effective at removing colour, taste and odour, and most of the organic matter. In combination with a carbon system, more of the taste and odour is removed and the carbon system requires less frequent replacement.

The presence of salts, including sulphates, may become noticeable during dry periods. They are best removed by a reverse osmosis (RO) system. With poor quality water, the membrane is prone to fouling and will require increased maintenance or replacement. Filtering and softening the water prior to the RO system will reduce the fouling problems. RO systems will remove virtually all bacteria, taste and odour, but with small units, about five litres of the water is wasted for every litre treated. To conserve water and reduce the cost of the treatment unit, most home owners use RO systems only for their drinking water.

Other problems common during dry spells include hard water and increased chlorine demand. Hard water is characterized by scaling on bathroom fixtures and white build-up around sprayer nozzles. Hardness is easily removed by a softener.

Increased organic matter in the dugout will also require more chlorine to maintain a residual and result in potentially more carcinogenic trihalomethanes. Home owners are advised to test chlorine residuals frequently and consider additional treatment to remove more organic matter prior to chlorination.

Water testing and frequent maintenance of your treatment system is always important, but even more so when it's dry. Water can be tested at any commercial laboratory.

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