04 March 2024

 

A Ceredigion sheep farm which relies solely on spring water for livestock and people is taking action to safeguard its water security, building resilience into the system by using technology in combination with expertise provided by Farming Connect.

Wallog, a 194-hectare coastal farm near Clarach, sources its water from a network of underground springs.

These feed into reservoir tanks and are pumped around the farm to provide water for the flock of 800 Welsh Mountain ewes, the farmhouse and tenanted cottages.

The 2022 heatwave underlined the pressure on water supplies, says Dai Evershed, who runs the farm alongside his father, Jack, in tandem with his work at the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS).

“It was very hot and we had so little rain that the spring water supply was very slow,’’ he recalls.

“This is a problem that is only going to get worse as our summers seem to be getting drier so we decided it was time to start looking at ways of saving water where possible and to use it more efficiently as we are moving it around.’’

The efficiency, he hopes, will come from reducing electricity usage; electric pumps are used to move water from wells to reservoirs before it is gravity fed to where it is needed.

By pumping only exactly what is needed, and by detecting leaks and problems as soon as they happen, it should be possible to achieve this reduction in electricity usage, Dai explains.

“Electricity is a big cost to the business,’’ he admits. “Reducing how much we use not only makes business sense but there is the moral aspect too, of trying to reduce our carbon footprint.’’

In his quest to achieve his twin objectives, and with support from his colleague, Jason Brook, Dai secured a 40% funded Welsh Government grant to invest in a LoRaWAN gateway and five sensors, to monitor water and energy use, and to detect and stop leaks at the earliest opportunity.

With support from Farming Connect as an ‘Our Farms’ project, water levels at different reservoirs are being monitored alongside flow rates of water and that information is being used to inform decisions on when pumping is necessary.

He will be supported in the ‘Our Farms’ project to design a system that is fit for the future, with the end goal of automating water pumping and utilising energy produced by recently installed photovoltaic (PV) panels, and which can act as a blueprint for other farms.

“We will use the information we gather to understand how much water is available at any given time, and how we can direct it to different parts of the farm with more pipes and troughs,’’ explains David.

Water availability is currently a major barrier to the farm being able to transition into a rotational grazing system.  

“We are hoping that the project will help us decide if such a system is possible with the amount of water we have available,’’ says Dai.

“Hopefully we can move away from relying on streams and ponds for livestock water in the summer and allow those areas to return to nature.’’
 


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