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Using Groundwater in Farming

Often the best source of water is not found on the surface of the land but below ground. Groundwater refers to underground water reservoirs formed from water seeping into the ground from rainwater and surface water sources like rivers and streams. The water collects in porous layers of sands, gravels and rocks called aquifers.

Usage Rules and Regulations

Groundwater is a finite resource so each state government have rules that govern its use. It is normally required that you have a bore construction licence and a groundwater usage licence especially if not using it for domestic and stock purposes.

These rules ensure the sustainability of water, especially if the groundwater is replenished from sources such as waterways which need to be shared and/or wetlands which if dried out would impact upon ecosystems.

Depletion of aquifers of water can also affect surrounding communities, agriculture and industries that also rely upon water below ground.

Accessing and Storing Groundwater

To access groundwater normally means drilling a hole in the ground down to the water table. Water accessed in this way is known as “bore water”. It is then pumped out of the ground to where it is needed or stored in water storage tanks.

Often windmill-powered pumps are setup alongside bore water tanks on the property where the hole is drilled below ground to the aquifer. From there it can be treated and distributed throughout the property to water stock troughs, irrigate crops and other areas it is needed.

Water storage tanks are sometimes set up high on stands above the ground which the groundwater is pumped into. Known as “header tanks”, they use gravity to create pressure that delivers the water to where it is needed on the property.

Groundwater Quality

Groundwater can be contaminated by many sources including sewage, animal wastes, agricultural run-off (which can contain fertilisers and pesticide), industrial pollution and seepage from rubbish tips or polluted stormwater.

You therefore want to ensure you test the groundwater on a regular basis, and ensure it is appropriately treated if used in your household, with livestock or throughout your farm irrigation.

Careful planning should be undertaken to ensure your own farming uses do not negatively impact upon your groundwater. To avoid or minimise water quality problems in groundwater:

  • Groundwater sources should ideally be set up up-hill and at least 250 metres from any wastewater disposal system such as a septic tank and trenches.
  • Avoid contact with surface waters (open wells).
  • Inspect the surface around a groundwater source regularly and protect it from dead animals, irrigation run-off and other contaminants. Raising the bore heads above ground level can avoid floodwaters and surface runoff contaminating the source.
  • Extract groundwater only where subsurface contaminants are unlikely. Try to avoid sites with heavy industry and intensive agriculture areas.

Clark Tanks work closely with many farmers to supply reliable water storage with fittings appropriate to your water source and usage. If you have found this article helpful, why not contact us today to discuss your needs.