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Main research question/goal
Since 2005, strict legal restrictions on collecting of well water in the province of West Flanders (from the Landenian aquifer, under the Iperian aquitard) have consequences for local farmers. The aim of the Flanders Environmental Agency (VMM) is to reduce the water consumption by 25% of the permitted quantity to keep the quantitative and qualitative balance between the water supply and the water use within the deep ground layers. The expansion of farms in combination with this restricted use of deep ground water is forcing farmers to look for alternative water sources. Deep groundwater is a form of shallow (phreatic) ground water, where a system of wells are dug to a depth of 4 to 8 meters. In this way, the pipe stays under the water table. Since 2010, the Water Knowledge Centre (at Inagro) suggests that this type of groundwater can be an important new and sustainable water source. Some pig farmers using this water source as drinking water for their animals have reported problems, however, especially in sows and weaned piglets. The aim of this project is to find out whether these problems are in fact due to the quality of the groundwater vs. other reasons, and to develop techniques to optimize the water quality.

Research approach
A research team at ILVO and Inagro have started collecting information about the use of well water and problems associated with its use on-farm. A survey was conducted for farmers that recently started with using this water source as drinking water. Of these farms, 10 were selected to test the pig’s performances and disease picture before and after application of water treatment techniques. In parallel, controlled experimental trials with weaned piglets are carried out at ILVO’s experimental farm. In these trials, water parameters such as water hardness and bicarbonates are augmented to more closely match the levels found in well water samples. The effect of these individual parameters on the piglets performance are evaluated. Last, a cost-benefit analysis should reveal the financial impact of using (treated) well water in comparison with tap water.

The aim of this project is to obtain knowledge and tools to upgrade well water to excellent source of drinking water. This can stimulate the use of this sustainable water source. Initially, the focus of the project is on farms in West-Flanders that have recently started or are planning to start using well water. After that, the obtained information can be extrapolated to farms in other Flemish regions. In addition, knowledge on the importance of water hardness on pig performance and health will be collected, which is important for farmers switching to hard(er) tap water. At the same time, this project will increase farmer awareness about water quality by informing them regularly (Pig Information Center, seminars, website, newsletters, etc.). Farmers will (re)gain confidence in the opportunities of well water as a reliable, valuable, sustainable source for drinking water.

Funding provider(s)
IWT - Instituut voor de aanmoediging door wetenschap en technologie in Vlaanderen

External partner(s)
Effective start/end date1/09/1630/11/20

ID: 4233618