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innovation


A10,000-gallon rainwater storage tank on a poultry farm.


Harvesting rainwater


It’s an old option worth considering by some farmoperations as costs of irrigation climb.


By Judie Steeves W


ith utility companies raising the price of water, along with more uncertainty around the availability of water when it’s needed, those in the agriculture industry are looking for alternatives to historic sources of water.


And, in some instances, those sources are a return to our roots as much as a journey into the field of new technology — like harvesting rainwater.


Dean Barrett is business


development manager at Barr Plastics in Abbotsford and he’s seeing an increase in his business from farmers who have found that water from local providers is an outrageous cost in a


year when the well gets low and Stage Three water restrictions have been put in place.


“There’s a growing interest in harvesting rainwater for agriculture,” he comments.


At the same time, the massive storage tanks used to provide a buffer for the well that sometimes runs low in a dry summer also can be used to help in managing stormwater — often a requirement of municipalities in these days of extreme rain events. Underground stormwater storage also can be used to re-charge aquifers, instead of simply holding runoff or diverting it into municipal stormwater systems.


“The sky’s the limit in terms of the quantity you can store,” he adds. He envisions a future where water will be much more expensive than it is today, so the importance of re-using the resource is only going to grow. Although Barrett’s company has always sold tanks for rainwater harvesting, it used to be mainly to people living on the Gulf Islands


8 British Columbia Berry Grower • Summer 2018


where fresh, potable water on land surrounded by salt water, is at a premium.


Today, people all over the province are interested in water conservation and rainwater harvesting is one way to broaden the potential sources of water, by adding a free source, even if the infrastructure to collect it and make it useful, is not free.


However, in order to harvest water from the skies, a collection system is required. Generally, roofs are used. So, if you have a big barn, a processing plant or greenhouses, you’re already set up for the collection of reasonable quantities of rainwater.


Without a large roof or collection area, the amount of water that can be collected is minimal, which makes it much more difficult to make good use of the tanks and piping, filters and treatment systems to make significant water useful for your needs. Almost all greenhouse operations in the Fraser Valley now collect and store rainwater, notes Barrett. Many use ponds and lagoons, which use up


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