Water Smart Farming Project

Farm & Food Care Ontario, contracted by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), undertook a number of water use assessments to help growers better understand how and where they use water. Informational videos, fact sheets, case studies and good news stories were all created to promote the understanding of water stewardship and inspire farmers and processors to embark upon an assessment of their own. Throughout the assessment process, vegetable washers and greenhouse growers are often able to reduce their water use and build smaller treatment systems, saving the producer money.

Processors that have adopted recommendations from their water use assessment have achieved savings between 30-70 per cent. Assessments can be conducted by experienced professionals or plant personnel using the “Self-Assessment” factsheet. Assessments of irrigation systems focus on design efficiency, effective pattern distributions and improved crop quality. By using soil moisture sensors and meters to better manage and monitor systems, growers are better able to apply the right amount of water at the right time to meet crop needs.

  • Project goals
    • Measure water at various aspects of the operation, consider where potable water is required and looking for opportunities to recycle water;
    • Employ de-dirting equipment to remove as much dirt as possible before washing and pre-soaking equipment to reduce the overall amounts of fresh water used;
    • Optimize irrigation water use by evaluating water distribution patterns of existing equipment and recommend changes to improve distribution patterns and improve crop quality.
  • Water-use assessments and case studies
    • On-site measurement of water used at each step of the machine or process to establish baselines of usage using meters and spot sampling and estimate costs of water and electricity;
    • Preparation of a water balance showing current water inputs and outputs;
    • Identification of opportunities to reduce, reuse and recycle water;
    • Optimize current water use and minimize water that needs to be treated;
    • Development of business cases (costs, equipment life, simple payback, etc.) for implementation of the identified opportunities and recommendations;
    • Delivery of a final report documenting the current situation, identified opportunities, economic assessment, and recommendations.

    NOTE: The Assessment portion of the project has ended. For more information on how to do any future assessments, read the Self-assessment fact sheets or contact Farm & Food Care Ontario

  • Lessons learned for vegetable processors
    • An assessment can save almost any plant considerable water for very little cost;
    • Remove as much dirt in the field and before washing as possible;
    • Use a multi-step wash process, pre-soak, then wash;
    • Use a recycling tray so that fresh, potable water is only used at the final processing steps and recycled water is used in the first steps (Note: this can reduce water by 50 per cent over all fresh water systems);
    • Rotameters (sight gauges) are a vital tool for operators, revealing how much water a machine is using (Note: they can result in a water use savings of 30 to 40 per cent savings by properly regulating how much water goes to a machine);
    • Water meters and a periodic review of the entire system is an important way to make and maintain savings.
  • Lessons learned for irrigators
    • Most irrigation systems can perform more efficiently with enhanced decision-making tools on when to irrigate and when to stop;
    • Flow meters are critical to effective management;
    • Systems must use consistent equipment (Note: do not mix-and-match risers or sprinkler heads);
    • All systems can benefit from an assessment of pattern distribution;
    • Drip irrigation systems require special efforts to monitor for performance, as they are often buried and harder to observe.


Case Studies

Fact Sheets

Good News Stories

Key Contacts:

For more information, please contact Farm & Food Care Ontario directly or through your local association:

Farm & Food Care Ontario - Bruce Kelly bruce@farmfoodcare.org  

Holland Marsh Growers Association - Jodie Mott growers@hollandmarshgold.com   

Ontario Greenhouse Growers Association - Justine Taylor jtaylor@ontariogreenhouse.com 

OMAFRA Water Engineer – Rebecca Shortt rebecca.shortt@ontario.ca

Enviro-Stewards – mail@enviro-stewards.com


Further Resources:

Dugout/Lagoon Volume Calculator – http://www.agric.gov.ab.ca/app19/calc/volume/dugout.jsp

Design, Construction and Maintenance of Irrigation Reservoirs in Ontario – http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/engineer/facts/16-009.htm