Be water wise: how to lower your farm’s water footprint

farm’s water footprintfarm’s water footprint
farm’s water footprintfarm’s water footprint

Be water wise: how to lower your farm’s water footprint

In the agricultural industry, there is always room for the improvements of one’s water usage. This is because agriculture uses a large amount of water for daily purposes such as watering crops and giving drinking water to livestock. If you are interested in lowering your farm’s water footprint, you can follow these farming tips and tricks to make the process easier.


Know how much water you are using

In order to curb your water usage, it is important to know first how much water you are already using. You can install flow meters or other measurement devices that keep track of water use, and utilise this data to plan your water conservation strategy.

Installing flow meters in specific areas will allow you to ascertain which areas of your farm are using more water than others, and so you will be able to lower your water footprint by lowering the usage in these areas. Once you know how much water you are actually using, you can strategise accordingly and effectively.


Drip irrigation

Drip irrigation is a form of irrigation which delivers water directly to the roots of the plant. This method reduces the evaporation of water which is often experienced during spray irrigation. Timers can be used to schedule watering for the cooler parts of the day to further reduce water loss.

Correctly installed and maintained drip irrigation systems can save up to 80% more water than traditional irrigation systems. This style of irrigation can also lead to higher crop yields, as it the water enters the ground directly, creating soil that retains its moisture rather than it being evaporated.


Capturing and storing water

One of the best ways to conserve water on a farm is to install a JoJo tank or similar rainwater catcher on the land. Many farms rely on municipal water or boreholes for their water, but these resources can prove fickle in times of drought or uncertainty.

Another way to effectively catch and store water is to build a pond on your land. Using the right materials and keeping it well maintained will allow you to have access to usable water without impacting the surrounding watershed. You may even create an ecosystem for local wildlife too, which will bring with it beneficial insects for crops.


Mulch and compost combinations

Using more mulch and compost combinations on your crops as fertiliser will help to improve your soil structure and increase its water-retention volume. Your mulch can be made up of natural materials such as wood chips or straw, which will be broken down organically into the compost.

A combination of mulch and compost can significantly aid the ground in holding more water during dry spells. You can also use ‘black plastic mulch’ for covering soil and squashing weeds while also decreasing water evaporation. This mulch is very similar to the wood chip mulch but it includes plastic particles to prevent the sun from penetrating the soil and causing further evaporation.


Keep crops covered

Planting cover crops can help to reduce weeds, promotes soil fertility and helps to prevent soil erosion. Soil erosion and water conservation go hand-in-hand, and so using cover crops is ideal for these issues.

Studies have shown that if you adequately cover your crops, the water penetration of the soil is more efficient. It will also add to the soils’ water holding capabilities if combined with the aforementioned mulch and compost combination. Cover crops also improve the soil quality, which can lead to better crop yields.


Drought-tolerant crops

Planting crops that are appropriate to your region’s climate can aid in water saving significantly. Crop species that are native to arid regions will be naturally drought-tolerant, while others will require more watering.

You can also look into crops that are favoured for their low water needs. These crops are able to handle drier conditions and so will allow you to farm but use less water will doing so. You could look into farming olives, as is popular in the Karoo or pulses which need less watering and can cope with the harsher weather.


Watch the weather

When it comes to irrigation and water conservation, one way to save water is to schedule your irrigation according to the weather, as well as plant and soil moisture and adjust their irrigation schedule accordingly.

By scheduling your drip irrigation at cooler times of the day, you are reducing the amount of evaporation that can occur. Some wine farms use a ‘flood irrigation’ technique wherein they water at night to avoid evaporation. This allows the water to seep deep into the soil and replenish the water table. If you cannot use this technique, try to schedule your irrigation for later in the day when the sun is lower in the sky.



There are many ways in which you can save water on your farm, all it takes is the first small step of analysing your usage. Once you know this, you will be able to make better and more effective plans for reducing your water footprint. Implementing simple changes can make the world of difference to your impact on the environment.

farm’s water footprint