Friday, 30 October 2020 10:26

ClearTech delivers massive water savings for farm

Written by  Mark Daniel
Professors Keith Cameron and Hong Di with the Lincoln University Dairy Farm ClearTech Effluent Treatment System. Professors Keith Cameron and Hong Di with the Lincoln University Dairy Farm ClearTech Effluent Treatment System.

A Ravensdown ClearTech effluent treatment system installed at the Lincoln University Dairy Farm (LUDF) has saved over 600,000 litres of freshwater in its first month of operation.

The saving equates to the average daily use of about 3,000 people, or the amount used by an individual in eight years.

With a potential to save billions of litres of freshwater annually if used across the New Zealand dairy industry, the systems efficacy and impact is confirmed by LUDF farm manager Peter Hancox. 

“Our ClearTech plant has been operational from the start of our milking season and we’re saving at least 50% of the water used to wash the yard. If we continue along this trend, then over a 10-month season we’ll achieve a total saving of 6,000,000 litres of freshwater,” he says.

Hancox notes the costs of set-up and ongoing maintenance are relatively modest, and far outweighed by the benefits that will accrue to farms and the wider community. 

Working away in the background, with no extra effort on behalf of the farmer, it’s a “win-win” for farmers and their communities, as every litre of wastewater recycled is a litre of freshwater saved, he says.

The ClearTech system collects farm dairy effluent then treats it with a coagulant to bind effluent colloidal particles together in order to settle them out from the water. The treated water can then be recycled, with the leftover treated effluent being safely used to recycle nutrients back to the pasture without odour.

In addition to reducing freshwater used in the yard by about 50%, the system effectively increases effluent pond storage capacity, while at the same time reducing leaching losses of phosphate and E. coli from the treated effluent when it is applied to the land.

The technology, developed by Lincoln University Soil Science Professors Keith Cameron and Hong Di, in conjunction with commercial partner Ravensdown, won the Science & Research Award at the inaugural Primary Industries Awards, the South Island Agricultural Fieldays Agri-Innovation Award, and a Highly Commended at the 2019 National Fieldays Innovation Awards.

Hancox says as farmers the LDUF wants to do the right thing.

“So, ClearTech delivers us a system where we can make a real difference to our environmental impact without busting the budget and with no disruption to our normal farm operations.”

Lincoln University acting vice-chancellor Professor Bruce McKenzie said the development of ClearTech exemplifies the university’s significant contribution to discovering Agritech solutions to help address some of the world’s most pressing land-based challenges.

“We’re also focused on developing meaningful partnerships with like-minded organisations, and our close collaboration with Ravensdown has enabled the successful delivery of the ClearTech system to farmers,” says McKenzie.

www.ravensdown.co.nz/products/cleartech

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Restoring our freshwater systems

OPINION: When I started writing this piece, I was sitting in my Kaiapoi office on a sweltering 30-degree summer’s day, and I could hear faint “plops” as youngsters pulled “phat manus” and “bombs” off the bridge into the Kaiapoi River as generations before them have done.

Do they know that the river is deemed “unsuitable” for swimming with E. coli levels of up to 2,420 per 100ml? This information is available on LAWA’s website, Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA) - Can I swim here? It makes for sobering reading. With levels this high, we should supply these youngsters with full PPE gear to wear over their shorts. The saddest fact is that this story is repeating itself from Cape Reinga to Bluff.

We are witnessing the systemic collapse of New Zealand’s freshwater systems as our environment can no longer handle the extreme pressure we have placed on it through decades of urban and rural intensification. We have taken too much from our environment and we must start giving back.

Change is coming with a renewed focus on healthy waterways through the National Policy for Freshwater Management (NPS-FM), which the Government announced in August 2020, as well as Plan Change 7 to the Canterbury Land & Water Regional Plan (PC7), which progressed through submissions and a hearing in front of independent hearing commissioners last year.

I attended the PC7 hearing in December and it boosted my spirits to observe the passion our community has for improving Waimakariri’s waterways. I hope the changes that come out of PC7 will be bold and far reaching.

The concept of Te Mana o te Wai underpins the NPS-FM and places the highest value on the health of freshwater systems. This philosophy is the new basis for how we, as a society, interact with our environment. The NPS-FM creates a framework for change, but we must also change how we think as council bodies, as communities, as businesses, and as individuals about how our systems/practices must shift from productive growth mode to sustainability mode, and how we can live within an acceptable environmental footprint. On an individual level, we need to realise how, over the long term, that wet paddock or riverbed block would benefit the planet if it were left to revert to a wetland or a more natural state.

This year the Waimakariri Water Zone Committee will focus on priority areas and working with the community to improve our waterways.

We will support change through three newlyformed catchment groups – the Sefton Saltwater Creek Catchment Group, the Landcare Working Group, and the Biodiversity Group.

We are ahead of the curve in Waimakariri in terms of engaging with farmers, waterway conservation groups and the wider community, but we still have a long journey ahead to restore our rivers and streams.

We must work together in a united way to leave our land and water for future generations to inherit in a better state than when we found it.

Whatungarongaro te tangata, toitū te whenua - As man disappears from sight, the land remains.

Michael Blackwellis is chair of Waimakariri Water Zone Committee.

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