Industry best practice manual for water quality management and sterilisation on-farm

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  5. Surface water: dams, rivers, streams

Surface water: dams, rivers, streams

Performance goal: Minimise the contamination risks to surface water.
Description: Surface water is water that collects on the surface of the ground and includes water from rivers, streams, dams and reservoirs. Water quality is highly variable.
Performance criteria: Contamination risks to surface water are controlled.

Best practice range: Nitrate (as nitrogen): 0–10mg/L

Maximum acceptable level: Nitrate (as nitrogen): 5mg/L
Minimum requirements
Water source location is chosen to minimise the risk from any likely contamination sources.
Minimise water source exposure to:
  • wild birds
  • other poultry
  • pigs
  • cattle
  • sheep
  • humans
  • other wild animals.
  • Algae blooms and cyanobacteria:
  • If a bloom is suspected, use an alternative supply of water for stock until the algae is identified and/or controlled.
  • If there is no alternative, use water from deeper in the river or dam, or from areas not covered by scum, as this water may be less contaminated.
  • Additional water pre-treatment and disinfection may be needed to control the risks from blooms.
  • Black water (hypoxic event):

  • Use extra disinfectant to achieve a disinfectant residual and manage the effects of black water.
  • Best practice options
  • Prevent turbidity and erosion by maintaining a high level of ground cover in the water supply catchment.
  • Prevent livestock access within 50 metres of surface water by fencing.
  • Prevent contaminated drainage and wastewater flowing into the catchment.
  • Apply any pesticides following the advice on product labels and immediately clean any spills that occur near water supply catchment.
  • Prevent nutrient leaching from irrigation or fertiliser application. Match application rates to plant uptake near water supply catchment.
  • During a black water event, aerate source or water storage.
  • Dams

    Reduce evaporation of water source, for example:
  • Establish windbreaks adjacent to dams to reduce evaporation
  • Place floating balls on the dam
  • Install an impermeable cover if the water is pumped into a dam
  • Store saline water in tanks rather than in dams
  • Construct sediment traps to protect dams during high-risk periods
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