Water Quality

Water quality is potentially one of the biggest problems in agriculture today. Livestock consume water in much greater quantities than any other nutrient and limiting its availability can severely impact production. The amount of drinking water required by livestock depends heavily on the moisture content of their feed. For example, cattle fed on a dry diet may require up to twice as much drinking water than those raised on wet diets (e.g. silage). Highly productive animals need large quantities of good quality, clean, fresh water. For dairy cattle, milk yield impacts on the amount of drinking water needed - 5 litres of fresh water is required for every kg of milk produced.1


Poor quality of drinking water can be a factor limiting intake. Key qualities impacting overall water quality are:2

  • sensory attributes (odour and taste)
  • physiochemical properties (pH, total dissolved solids, hardness)
  • chemical composition
    • toxic compounds (heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, hydrocarbons, etc)
    • excess minerals or compounds such as nitrates, sodium sulphates
    • biological contaminants (bacteria, algae, viruses)

If water quality is not properly managed there is an increased risk of harm from contaminants. Water with high levels of salinity or containing toxic elements can be a high animal health risk and may also make meat or milk unfit for human consumption. Agricultural and industrial activities are the principal cause of many water problems affecting livestock, including high concentrations of minerals, sulphates, nitrates and nitrites, bacterial contamination, heavy growth of blue-green algae and chemical contamination.


Depending on the water source, pathogens from animal excreta can be a big problem. Meat products can become directly contaminated during slaughtering or watercourses polluted which are potentially used elsewhere as a source of irrigation water. Spring and well waters are susceptible to faecal contamination by runoff from land occupied by livestock. On-farm reservoirs are often filled from river systems during winter months. The pathogen load of reservoir water is determined by the initial load in the source river water and the rate of pathogen decline between the time of abstraction and use (normally > 3 months). In fact, pathogens can survive longer in cleaner water than in water containing microbial organisms, which act as pathogen predators.3


Michelle Doherty BA BSc(Hons) PhD

1. DEFRA, 2011, Sustainable Water for Livestock Report
2. Olkowski, 2009, Livestock Water Quality Guide 
3. FSA, 2002, A review of the use of water in UK agriculture and the potential risks to food safety 

Bio-Genesys offers a wide range of reliable farm water treatment products including chlorine treatments, peroxide treatments, acidifiers and disinfectants, organic acids, electroperoxidation. We also have products for testing water quality such as pH meters, test strips, photometers.  

Contact us now to discuss your farm water requirements and see how we can help. 

Click here to see our water treatment product range


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Bio-Genesys Ltd
Unit 4
Charter Road,
Ripon Business Park,
North Yorkshire,
HG4 1AJ.
United Kingdom


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