By Lilian Schaer for Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association
The 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.
Jan Veldhuizen with his new water storage facility
“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. 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.”
“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 available to Ontario greenhouse, landscape nursery and vegetable farm businesses last year.
The program was developed to implement best management practices (BMP) for improving water quality, water quantity and water management issues.
In order to qualify, program applicants had to have a peer-reviewed Third Edition Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) in place and have selected a BMP from a pre-approved list specific to this program that related directly to an action identified in their EFP.
Portions of six specific BMP categories were eligible for cost-share funding under this initiative, including Horticultural Facilities Runoff Control, Upland and Riparian Area Habitat Management, Improved Pest Management, Nutrient Recovery from Waste Water, and Irrigation Management and Resource Planning.
The Canada-Ontario Environmental Farm Plan and its associated cost-share program, the Canada-Ontario Farm Stewardship Program, were funded through Growing Forward, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. They were administered by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture acting on behalf of the Ontario Farm Environmental Coalition. The Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) delivered the programs to agricultural producers.
“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. –30 –
For further information please contact the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association at www.ontariosoilcrop.org or 1-800-265-9751.