Water Watch: Managing a supply interruption

A disrupted water supply can be costly, inconvenient and hugely detrimental to the running of your farm. Mark Taylor, Advanced Services Operations Manager at Water Plus, covers the steps farmers can take should a problem occur.
 

Despite the best intentions and prior preparation, interruptions to agricultural water supplies occur from time to time and can significantly impact the day-to-day operations of an arable or dairy farm.

While farms with livestock are classified as ‘Category 4 Sensitive Customers’, meaning that you’ll be recognised as vulnerable during a wholesaler network supply interruption, sensitive sites such as hospitals, will be given priority for repairs or emergency water deliveries should supply disruptions occur. It means if you don’t have alternative water sources on your land and a plan in place for an interruption, then you may have to pay for a water delivery to your site.

The best way to manage a disrupted water supply is to have a plan in place before anything happens, so you know exactly what to do and where you can get water from should the worst occur.

What to do if you lose supply

Firstly, contact your wholesaler. They can advise of any problems across their network, such as leaks or burst pipes. They’ll also be able to let you know what they’re doing to resolve these issues and whether they’re able to deliver additional water to your site while your supply is off. It’s also worth checking in with your neighbouring properties and other farms in the nearby area to see whether they’re having similar issues, as this can indicate it’s a network problem.
 
Supply interruptions or a drop in water pressure can be caused by a burst pipe or leak on your site – both of which are your responsibility to find and arrange any repairs needed – so take time checking your site regularly for any leaks. Keep an eye on your water meter too for any unexpected increases in water use so you can look into the cause.
 
It’s worth knowing the location of your internal and external stop-taps (a.k.a. stop-cocks), so you can access them quickly in an emergency. A drop in pressure could be due to one of these being partially closed or a leak on the supply. Internal stop-cocks are normally found where the water supply pipe enters your property (in homes it’s usually under the kitchen sink). The external tap will be next to your water meter.

Mitigating the effects of a supply interruption

There are several steps you can take ahead of time to minimise the impact of any supply interruptions and ensure your business can continue to run.
 

  • Check your water meter regularly, so you have a rough idea of your typical daily use. Once you’ve established this, any unexplained increases in usage (often signalling a leak) can be spotted and dealt with quickly. If you think you have a leak on-site you’ll need to organise a repair.
 
  • It’s also worth having a site-specific plan to source additional water during an unexpected interruption to your mains supply, as your wholesaler may not be able to help. Diversifying your supply according to the sources available on your site, decreases the risk of an interruption causing too much damage.
 
  • Look for water sources on and close to your land – such as wells, springs, streams, rivers or lakes – that could be used in an emergency. You could also consider installing additional private water supplies such as boreholes, or even rainwater harvesting for jobs that do not require mains-quality drinkable water, such as washing down hardstanding areas.
 
  • Finally, look to reduce non-essential mains water use where you can by assessing which jobs require mains-quality drinking water (e.g. water for livestock) and which do not, and being aware of - and following - the rules on water use from Defra, the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) and the Environment Agency. This can also lower your water bills, meaning you benefit year-round.

 
Water is the lifeblood of many day-to-day agricultural operations, so it’s vital that you’re prepared and ensure your system is robust and reliable at all times. We’ve got more advice on the options available to you should your water supply be interrupted on our dedicated farmers page.

We also have more advice for farmers in these articles below as well as details on their responsibilities when it comes to a leak on their land and how to keep the cost of your water bill from rising.
 

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Should a leak or problem occur on the main networks or supply pipes outside of your land's boundaries, then the wholesaler remains responsible for reparing these. But make sure you're aware of the steps you need to take too, so none of your farming operations ground to a halt.

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