monitroing water

Water Monitoring BMP

Water quality BMP is an extremely important area that all farmers and graziers need to consider in the development of their business practices. Contamination of water supplies by chemicals (pesticides) and other pollutants is a risk, particularly in mixed farming areas, where the use of pesticides and herbicides is common. Producers should be aware of the risks involved in the use or unintended use of these compounds. Contamination of surface water, ground water or catchment areas could lead to intake of chemicals by stock and wildlife. While there may not be any direct toxic effect on the stock, some chemicals can stay in the animal as residues which may render the produce of that animal unfit for consumption and expose the owner to the cost and inconvenience of quarantine or prosecution or both.

Good farmers and many governments have been focussed on the quality of water running off farming and grazing land into streams and eventually into oceans for many years. An excellent example of this program is the Australian Governments, "Reef Rescue" program being run in Queensland during the 2008 - 2013 period. The goal has been to:

As a grazier or farmer, good water quality can mean increased production or poor water quality can mean reduced production. Water quality can vary throughout the season and from year to year. A good example of this is during a drought year, minerals and salts become concentrated in underground and surface water and in a flood year, the minerals are often flushed from the system. That is unless other concentrated minerals are being added by a mining process or other form of pollution causing more water quality problems. A water quality BMP will vary for each farm or business. However, the key parameters that are essential for a water quality BMP include:


Grazing BMP - Livestock

Water is an essential nutrient for all animals. It is important for both animal welfare and business profitability that sheep and cattle have an adequate supply of good quality water. Amount and quality of water required vary between species of livestock, between classes of stock within the species, and in response to the environment.

If you are a grazier, it is important to check your stock drinking water by collecting a sample and sending it to a recognised laboratory for analysis. The problem that most producers have is that the laboratory simply undertakes the analysis and gives you back the results. You then need to find someone else to interpret the results and give recommendations. Similar to a soil test, water needs to be assessed for its productive capability. Often the level of a specific mineral in the water supply will reduce livestock intake or something as simple as the pH of the water will reduce intake by 30% or more.

   max for healthy growth level that will impact growth
Horses 4,000 6,000
Dairy cattle  2,500 4,000
 Pigs 4,000 6,000
Beef cattle  4,000 5,000 - 10,000
Adult sheep  5,000 5,000 - 10,000

Safe level of salt (mg/L) for livestock as compared to ocean levels.

Dams vs Troughs

Research from Agri-Canada in 2007 demonstrated a large increase of up to 20% more weight gain from stock drinking at troughs as compared to open source dams (dugouts). Stock water should always be piped to troughs where possible as this will reduce point source pollution caused stock walking in stirring up sediment and defecating in dams.

Farming BMP - Irrigation

If you are a farmer or growing crops using irrigation water, it is important to assess the various parameters of your irrigation water quality. The key issues include:


  1. Root zone salinity
  2. Soil structural stability
  3. Build-up of contaminants in soil
  4. Effects on soil biota
  5. Release of contaminants from soil to crops and pastures 


  1. Yield Product quality
  2. Salt tolerance
  3. Specific ion tolerance
  4. Foliar injury
  5. Uptake of toxicants in produce for human consumption
  6. Contamination by pathogens 

Water Resources

  1. Deep drainage and leaching below root zone
  2. Movement of salts, nutrients and contaminants to groundwaters and surface waters 

It is important to analyse irrigation water quality each season and then match this to soil analysis and crop requirements. If a soil already has a high salt concentration, adding large quantities of high salt irrigation water can magnify the potential problem.

For testing laboratories, please call 0438 395 255

This page will be updated as necessary. If you would like more information on this or any other topics,

Please call 0438 395 255.


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